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Healthy Antibacterial Tips

Healthy Home 2008, Spring 2008

These days, antibacterial products are everywhere. Soaps, tissues, sponges, cutting boards, and even countertops and toilet seats are laced with germ killers and touted as key to keeping your family and home healthy.

But are they necessary? Regular soap and water removes microorganisms from the skin and other surfaces, after which they're either washed down the drain or wiped onto a towel. Antibacterials, on the other hand, actually kill bacteria. This is a good thing if you're in a hospital or around people who could easily become ill. But scientists fear that widespread use of antibacterials actually contributes to new strains of superbugs, or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as community-acquired MRSA.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that antibacterials may disrupt the development of children's immune systems, leading to increased risk of allergies.

Don't spend money on antibacterial cutting boards, countertops, and other surfaces. Instead, wash surfaces with plain soap and hot water. Avoid personal items -- such as socks, athletic wear, and cosmetics -- containing antibacterials.

More Careful
Forgo antibacterial hand cleaners and sanitizers, which are no better than soap and water at getting rid of bacteria or viruses (such as colds and flu). Don't buy antibacterial facial tissues.

Most Careful
When there's no sink in sight but you've just got to clean off your hands (such as after sneezing, shopping for groceries, or riding a bus or train), opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which won't help produce the superbugs.

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