We live in a society almost pathologically fearful of bacterial. Disinfecting products like sanitary wipes and hand sanitizers with antibacterial properties are hugely popular. Yet, there has always been a concern among health professionals that these products are creating more of a problem than they solve. Two new studies confirm this suspicion and go a step further to demonstrate that the products people hope are keeping us free of scary bacteria such as MRSA may actually be contributing to its spread.
Two studies released this week reinforce two important take home messages:
1. They have to be used properly with one swipe per surface. Otherwise, bacterial like MRSA are actually spread to other surfaces.
2. When used diligently and properly, the use of disinfecting swipes does cut down on the spread of gastrointestinal viruses but not respiratory viruses and allows kids to miss less school.
Our first take home message is compliments of the Welch School of Pharmacy. According to BBC News, researchers "found that MRSA survived on the wipe, and then contaminated everything it touched." It turns out that in too many hospitals, workers were cleaning multiple surfaces with an individual swipe. What should be happening is one swipe per surface.
Our second take home message is from this month's Pediatrics where researchers from Children's Hospital Boston and Stanford University School of Medicine discovered that the use of hand sanitizer and disinfecting swipes in an elementary school environment reduced the amount of missed school days from "stomach" viruses. With proper use of both products, Norovirus, the most common gastrointestinal virus that strikes in schools, was reduced on surfaces that were tested.
In the end, though, do you know what really keeps viruses like Norovirus and bacterial like MRSA from spreading? Good old fashioned hand washing with good old fashioned soap and water. So, what do your kids need to know about locker rooms? Swiping and hand washing after touching surfaces is their best defense. When in doubt, swipe or wash. If you get your kids to think that way, you'll help them drastically reduce the chance they'll bring home an unwanted germ.