How being the office germaphobe is making you sick

Preventing germs is important but using a hand sanitiser too often could be your health.
Preventing germs is important but using a hand sanitiser too often could be your health.

Do you constantly wash your hands and disinfect your desk for fear of catching a terrifying germ?

Well, on the one hand it’s a good idea to practice healthy hygiene habits as it can help prevent the spread of germs. But, on the other hand, it could be making you sick.

Good clean vs good hygiene

When we talk about good hygiene, we don’t mean being obsessively clean and using hand sanitiser every 20 minutes.

Instead, good hygiene is about preventing the spread of germs – for example, washing your hands before you prepare food, after you’ve used the toilet or after sneezing and coughing.

Practicing good hygiene is vital when comes to stopping the spread of disease-causing germs including colds, flu, tummy bugs, salmonella and E.coli.

Possible dangers of being too clean

Preventing germs is important but it is possible that using a hand sanitiser too frequently can be bad for your health.

The notion of being “too clean” first came about when Prof David Strachan proposed the “hygiene hypothesis” in a 1989 study. It suggests that children who aren’t exposed to germs and infection are the reason for a rise in allergies.

It’s possible, experts say, that being too clean can change the bacteria that live inside us, making us more susceptible to allergies, asthma and other immune-related conditions.

OCD about hand sanitiser

Researchers believe that overusing hand sanitiser could cause children to lose their ability to build up resistance to bacteria. Dr Samer Blackmon, an internal medicine specialist at Piedmont Healthcare, supports this idea.

“By constantly using hand sanitiser, you eliminate the bacteria that helps build up your immune system, allowing antibiotic-resistant bugs to enter your system and make you very sick.”

Be hygienic without overdoing it  

You don’t want to overdo handwashing, especially with alcohol-based sanitiser, but there are still some habits you should follow and teach your children, like washing your hands before eating or after using the toilet.

“Use common sense – wash your hands if you’ve been around someone who is sick, after using the bathroom and after blowing your nose or sneezing,” says Dr Blackmon.   

When it comes to washing your hands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has simple guidelines to follow.

Wet your hands, lather them up with soap and wash them thoroughly (the back of your hands, between your fingers, under nails) for at least 20 seconds – or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. (Just remember to close the tap so you don’t waste water while doing this.) Rinse your hands and then dry them.

Image credit: iStock

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