Are Germ-killing Products Harming Your Health?
So is there a place for germ-killing products in our lives?
Most experts agree that a few products do promote overall health by reducing the transmission of disease and infection. “Studies have shown that good old-fashioned soap and water, as well as alcohol gels for sanitizing hands, reduce the incidence of picking up an infectious disease,” says Sachs. “The way most of us catch an infectious illness is through our hands: We inoculate ourselves when we touch our eyes and our noses with germ-covered hands. You can interrupt that transmission cycle just by using ordinary soap and water to wash your hands regularly.” Here are the germ-killing products you should have on hand:
When you’re in a place where you don’t have access to soap and water — like when you’re navigating a busy subway — alcohol hand-sanitizing gels are an ideal (and healthy) solution.
These are also generally regarded as a safe bet, and most experts suggest they’re a worthy health investment. “Humidifiers can become breeding grounds for mold and mildew, which are types of fungus that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. That’s why you want to be careful that your humidifier is clean and has a HEPA filter that will remove mold and mildew.”
Another place where antibacterial products may have a place is in the kitchen, says Sachs. “We’ve been using antibiotics in our livestock for years, and consequently a lot of our meat and eggs are contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria.” If you handle raw eggs or meat, you may want to use an antibacterial kitchen cleanser to kill the germs left behind on kitchen surfaces. Sachs suggests vinegar may be a better bet: It’s acidic enough to kill bacteria naturally — without reinforcing the cycle that’s contributing to creating drug-resistant bacteria.
The most important point to keep in mind, says Sachs, is that while we should reduce exposure to infection-causing germs, the vast majority of germs aren’t harmful. “We have to get away from the idea that all germs are bad,” she says.
So don’t go overboard ridding your house of germs and bacteria. Know that it’s okay for kids to play in the dirt. And the next time the neighbor’s dog licks your child’s face, let it go. Just be sure to keep washing those hands.