Hand hygiene is a vital part of any infection control practice. Nurses are constantly disinfecting their hands hundreds, if not thousands of times per day (or at least they should be)
but this mentality has spread to the greater public, with antibacterial soaps becoming more readily available, and to some, a necessity.
You would expect this to be good news, but it’s not. Recently emerging evidence has shown that this over-use of antibacterial soaps outside of the healthcare setting may actually be doing more damage than good. While the immediate benefits of not transferring infectious agents through hand contact are obvious, the antibacterial components may be negatively affecting your gut flora, as well as building up the antibiotic resistance of bacteria that lives on the skin. Resistance to common antibacterial agents such as triclosan and triclocarban have already been consistently demonstrated in laboratory settings.
The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) banned the use of triclosan in over the counter hand soaps in September 2016, a move which has brought the benefits of these soaps into question. It is now believed that these antibacterial soaps may be of no further benefit than the standard neutral soaps that have been available for years. by going overboard with the antibacterial soaps, many of us are simply increasing the concentrations of bacteria in our environment that are highly resistant to antibiotics, which could, in turn lead to infections that are difficult to control.
The Australian Government is highlighting the need to better understand and limit our use of antibiotic soaps through their Antibiotic Awareness Week, running from the 14th to the 20th of November. You can find out more about the initiative here: nps.org.au/aaw2016
While infection control in the healthcare setting is vitally important the recovery of patients, the overuse of antibiotics has led to the sterile environments entering the home, and breeding only the toughest and meanest bugs.