It's the cold and flu season, and the CDC recommends hand-washing to keep yourself healthy and to prevent spreading germs.
A new study from Johns Hopkins University, however, raises questions about whether we're "too clean" because of the use of antibacterial products. Researchers found that children with higher levels of chemicals from antibacterial soaps have more allergies.
Children's Mercy Hospital Allergy and Immunology specialist Dr. Jay Portnoy said not all bacteria are bad, so we don't want to scrub away the good ones.
"If we start to kill off all the normal bacteria, use too many antimicrobial soaps, then they don't develop the ability to get along with them and they don't provide the service that we're used to," he said.
They help fight off bad bacteria, he said. Researchers say lack of exposure to bad bacteria can cause immune systems to become overactive and react to things such as cats and pollen.
Dr. Portnoy said hand-washing plays an important role in preventing the spread of disease. However, he said washing with regular soap and water is all we really need.
Dr. Portnoy describes it as a symbiotic relationship with the normal bacteria living on and in all of us.
"Our skin has bacteria on it. Our intestines have bacteria in them and they provide a service. They help us digest our food. They help produce vitamins and minerals for us. They help to fend off the pathogens or the bad bacteria."
Dr. Portnoy said no one is suggesting that anyone stop washing their hands. He said everyone needs to wash with soap and water to prevent the spread of disease. That especially applies to doctors.
"But I do wash my hands before every patient. And patients should ask their doctor to do that. If you see your doctor walk into the room and they don't wash their hands, before they touch you ask him if he could please wash his hands."
Dr. Portnoy said he agrees with the CDC guidelines that says keeping hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of disease. He said further studies are needed on the chemicals contained in antibacterial soaps.
The study is at bit.ly/SegY9H.
CDC hand-washing guidelines are at cdc.gov.