Antibacterial Soaps

Antibacterial soaps have been on the grocery store isles for several years now. With the flu season you may think you're killing more germs, but the truth may surprise you.

Most of us know hand washing is one good way of stopping the spread of germs. Logically you might think if the soap used its anti-bacterial, more of those germs will be destroyed in the process.

Not so says a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Trudy Larson says the panel looked at several studies and concluded, "In a typical household, that none of these had any benefit. In other words the antibacterial soaps were no more effective than soap or water."

Research shows while antibacterial products kill most of the bacteria they come in contact with, regular soaps help separate bacteria from the skin. The bacteria then wash down the drain or transfer to a towel.

A literal wash by scientific standards.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, University of North Carolina researchers found waterless hand wipes removed only half of bacteria on volunteers' hands.

But there is additional concern, theoretically using anti-bacterial soaps may help develop resistant bacteria.

While the F-D-A panel found no evidence of that after a year long study, it nevertheless is recommending the agency take action. That may mean regulating the products by changing product labels and requiring antibacterial soap makers to prove their products fight infection.

But Dr. Larson says there may be one advantage regular soaps have over antibacterial brands--especially as it applies to flu season.

" It was recognized that with soap and water you also get rid of viruses."

Dr. Larson says in a pinch alcohol based gel hand sanitizers do a good job. They get rid of the bacteria, but the alcohol won't create resistant bacteria. They are drying however, and may irritate sensitive skin.