Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Keep it clean, eh?

When it comes to basic hygiene, mom may not have known best

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Wash the backs of your hands, and your wrists, and under your fingernails. And dry them properly using clean, disposable towels, not your pant legs, girl, which are likely dirty.

As for antibacterial soap, forget it. Studies show that antibacterials aren’t significantly more effective at combating germs than regular soaps. In fact, some tests show that people using them are lulled into a false sense of security – they don’t spend as long washing and rinsing their hands. Even worse, the multi-billion-dollar antibacterial soap industry is contributing to the growing problem of drug-resistance and deadly super-bugs.

At the very least, antibacterial soaps don’t produce "cleaner" or healthier households. According to one study recorded at the National Library of Medicine in the U.S., a double-blind test of almost 1,200 people indicated that there were no fewer cases of cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea or other symptoms in households using antibacterial soaps than in those that didn’t use them.

Furthermore, most common ailments are caused by viruses, which are beyond the scope of antibacterials. And since children need to be exposed to some bacteria in early childhood in order to strengthen their immune systems those who aren’t exposed to common bacteria, which are wiped out by antibacterial soap, may be more prone to allergies and asthma . Ergo the American Medical Association’s refusal to endorse antibacterial soaps.

Worse, anti-bacterial agents are turning up in the environment. In one study alone, 58 per cent of streams tested contained antibacterials.

So keep it simple. Use some soap. Wash and rinse properly. And don’t forget to sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself – twice. Because you will be a lot happier if you stay healthy.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who hates dirty-handed dealings.