The Fallacy of Excessive Hand-Washing

In the recent past, one of the most vocal health-related campaigns has been to sensitize people to wash their hands as often as they can. Most people will always carry a hand sanitizer in their purse.

According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular hand-washing helps eliminate the spreading of germs and thus prevents you from contracting a number of diseases. This analysis is a fact.

The flip side of hand-washing

However, recent studies are now showing that the excessive washing of hands has serious detrimental health effects. According to the University of California, San Diego’s founding chair in the department of dermatology, washing your hands too frequently makes the body vulnerable to certain diseases.

One of the studies that has been replicated in the last two decades shows that children born and raised in the rural areas experience fewer allergies compared to children from rich and urban neighborhoods. The rural-living children wash their hands less often and allow themselves to be exposed to germs.

Also, excessive hand-washing is contributing to the growing epidemic of resistant bacterial strains. This is primarily due to the overuse of the antibacterial soaps.

The science against excessive hand-washing

Health experts have warned that excessive hand-washing disrupts the body’s natural immune system. They say that the body should be left to use its natural ways to fight germs.

Moreover, hand sanitizer overuse in children causes their body to lose the natural ability to grow bacteria resistance. Perhaps this is the reason behind increasing allergies in children.

Furthermore, the hand sanitizers and soaps we use remove the essential oils and good bacteria that are found on the skin. These oils and bacteria help the body fight diseases.

Also, excessive hand-washing can lead your hands to dry out to the point of skin cracking. Some people’s hands may even start bleeding. This damages the skin and affords germs an easy entry point.

Some hand sanitizers and soaps may contain harmful ingredients. Some antibacterial soaps contain a chemical known as triclosan, which has been linked to diseases such as eczema, asthma and allergic reactions. Although the chemical has been banned in the U.S. state of Minnesota, it still continues to be legally used in other states.

How much hand-washing is too much?

You can be sure you are overdoing it when you start to experience pain and redness on your hands, flaking of the skin and cracking.

Too much hand-washing may be a sign of a bigger problem: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is an anxiety disorder that keeps you uncontrollably worried about germs.

People suffering from the disorder have an uncontrollable urge to wash their hands far too often. They will scrub their hands raw and make sure to thoroughly wash each finger at a time just to satisfy their thoughts.

How often should you wash your hands?

Stick to the regular routine of washing hands before meals, after and during food preparation, after visiting the restroom or changing a diaper and after sneezing into your hands.

In addition to the routine times, wash your hands after engaging in sex, before and after treating wounds and when your hands look dirty. In all other instances, listen to your common sense.