Saturday, March 6, 2010

Antibiotics rule! Antibacterials don't.

N-man and B-man came down with strep throat this week, and scarlet fever.

No surprise, a few days later, I was at the doctor. Strep throat for me too. Wow, that hurts!

Anyway, we're all on antibiotics. The boys are much, much better, and I'm well on my way. How awesome are antibiotics? You hear "scarlet fever" and think of some wicked terrible disease. Turns out it's quite easily treatable and no big deal as long as you get on antibiotics. Who knew?

This got me thinking about one of my pet peeves: the overuse of antibacterial products. I think people are starting to understand why it's dangerous to overuse antibiotics. But what I can't understand is why supermarkets (and to a lesser degree, toy stores) are filled with antibacterial products. Unless someone in the house is immune-compromised, why does anyone need it? Just like with antibiotics, antibacterial products can create resistant strains of bacteria. Here's a good article from the CDC.

It seems to me that companies who sell antibacterial products are really being irresponsible, relying on fear-mongering and misinformation.

Not to mention, triclosan, one of the most commonly used antibacterials, pollutes the water supply and may have potentially dangerous health consequences (check this for more info).

What do you think of things like antibacterial soap or products impregnated with antibacterials? Do you use them in your house? If so, are you aware of the risks? My theory is that most people who buy them think it's a good thing that will protect their family and don't realize they are contributing to the rise of "superbugs", polluting the environment, and potentially contributing to health problems. Now there would be some good truth in advertising: "buy our antibacterial soap! It probably won't help you, but it will screw up the world!"


Green tip for the day: Unless there's an extremely compelling reason (i.e., an immune compromised family member), just say no to Microban products and cleaners containing antibacterials.

As always, do your own research and/or talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. The internet is filled with nutjobs making wild claims about the dangers of this or that. I tried to include links that contained actual scientific research rather than someone just screaming "antibacterials will kill us alllllllll!" I am not a scientist. However, I do find the research compelling enough that we don't use antibacterial products. Says the person who has a house full of strep throat :)


Nicole S. said...

I also think it gives a false sense of security. People seem to replace hand-washing with antibacterial lotion which is gross. It may kill bacteria (most of which doesn't need killing in the first place) but it doesn't mean your hands are "clean" - the dirt and gunk would still be there, just covered up. One more reason I hate Purell...

Everyday Goddess said...

Fear is what advertising is all about.

I learned it from Mad Men.

Maggie said...

Agreed!!! I try not to buy anything labeled antibacterial. Good handwashing does just fine. And I do think products like Purell give a false sense of security - while it kills a lot of respiratory germs, it is ineffective against norovirus, the worst germies in my mind b/c I hate vomiting/diarrhea illnesses!!!

Amy said...

I very seldom use Purell type stuff. We got a big bottle from the hospital after the kids' had RSV and still have most of it. We just made sure we washed our hands often. The Purell stuff was just there for convenience. I actually knew someone who got a yeast infection because of over use of antibacterial soaps. My pet peeve is overuse or misuse of antibiotics. They definitely have their place and are very important, but not if they are used improperly.

Nancy said...

AMEN Sister. I've been ranting about that for years. You NEED those bugs to build up a healthy immune system. Now...does that mean that there's no antibacterial soap in my house? I'm embarrassed to say that there probably's not always easy to find "regular" !!

anitajd said...

I totally agree with you and the comments left. We need the bugs to teach our immune system to fight them!!! Society has gone overboard yet again.