Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can you wash and sanitize your hands too much?"
This guy I work with washes his hands constantly and uses that hand sanitizer stuff all the time. Is this bad? I heard that bacteria get resistant if you do that stuff too much. I don't want him getting me sick because he's a germ freak. Is he right to do this?
It is a common myth that using a hand sanitizer product (which is a product which contains a high concentration of alcohol as the bacteria - killing chemical) can result in resistant bacteria. This is absolutely not true! In fact, alcohol based hand sanitizer are widely used in all hospitals throughout the world to prevent the spread of infection. They effectively kill all forms of bacteria, including resistant bacteria. Bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics, which all work in one way or another by interfering with the metabolism and growth of the bacteria. Bacteria can learn to adapt to these mechanisms of interference. However, alcohol is a direct chemical killer, and it is not possible to evolve resistance to this kind of killing mechanism. Furthermore, alcohol based hand sanitizers have been shown to be more effective than regular hand washing. In part, this is because it is quicker and easier, so people are more likely to use the alcohol based hand sanitizer more frequently and correctly than they wash their hands. Therefore, there is no risk of getting sick from using one of these hand sanitizers frequently. Please do talk to your primary care doctor for more information about hand hygiene and related questions.
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