Kathy, thanks for your question about antibacterial soap. Currently, about three-quarters of the liquid hand soap available is antibacterial, and it can be hard to find regular liquid soap. But it is good to be cautious about using antibacterial soap.
Although antibacterial soap may be effective in reducing the spread of germs in hospital settings, studies have shown that antibacterial soap is not
more effective than regular soap in reducing illnesses at home. A recent study assigned families with preschool-age children to use either regular soap or antibacterial soap. The study found that the families experienced the same rates of runny nose, cough, sore throat, conjunctivitis, fever, vomiting and diarrhea no matter which soap they used. This makes sense because viruses cause most children’s illnesses at home. Antibacterial soaps, just like antibiotics, kill only bacteria—not viruses.
Furthermore, experts are concerned that overusing antibacterial soaps, just like overusing antibiotics, is causing bacteria to become resistant to the products we use to kill them. Due to the overuse of antibiotics, some bacterial infections that could have been easily cured a decade ago are now resistant to antibiotic treatment and can be fatal.
In all, regular liquid soap is preferable for general hand washing at home. Antibacterial soap might be recommended by a physician if someone at home has a serious bacterial infection that could spread to others, or someone has a medical condition that places him at high risk for getting sick with a serious bacterial infection.
Hand washing is the main way to prevent illnesses. Even more important than the type of soap you use is when
you wash hands:
- Before preparing food, feeding your children, eating or doing any healthcare procedures.
- After toileting or nappying, wiping runny noses and spit up, handling raw poultry or meat, cleaning up after animals and working outdoors.
- Using soap and running water.
- Scrubbing all sides of your hands and between the fingers for at least 10 seconds.
- Rinsing off well.
- Drying off with a paper towel or clean cloth towel.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.