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Flu and Antibacterials, by David in Israel

James
I constantly see recommendations for people to use hand sanitizer especially every time the flu-de jure becomes a problem. Over my years as a firefighter/paramedic many of my co-workers used hand sanitizer on a regular basis, the most frequent users often ended up with cracked skin and infections or scabs at the corners of their fingernails. These users even ended up occasionally spreading the fungus to me and other non antibacterial users due to their compulsive wiping of antibacterial compounds onto steering wheels and other surfaces.

Your best protection is not to nuke your own protections and hope any bacteria die, but rather enhance your own systems. Vinegar rubbed onto the hands doesn’t remove your body’s protective oils, it also doesn’t cause the [drying and] cracking that alcohol based rubs do. Acidophilus is available in capsule form which can be opened and rubbed onto damp hands, acidophilus is a powerful microscopic security force that works in symbiosis with your body. I also had a policy of not using soap but spraying with dilute vinegar after rinsing my hands, sometimes rubbing in a few drops of olive oil, my hands stayed soft making my wife happy, the toughened skin stayed tough, and my skin protection layer stayed intact.

Day to day long periods of wearing of latex or nitirile gloves will cause your hands to crack and dry out. Since you will probably not encounter open puddles of body fluid by surprise cotton gloves, safety or eye glasses, and a cotton or better yet a HEPA [1] face mask should help prevent acquiring any airborne hyper-communicative diseases if you need to go into a public place. Carry nitrile gloves and safety glasses in case you are called to provide first aid. Be sure to safely remove, bag, and wash any reusable protection before entering your home or vehicle.

Top attention should be placed on keeping your hands away from your face, especially the mouth and eyes. When I was a paramedic instructor I had the students hands dusted with UV- [2]glowing powder. After class I brought out the black light, nearly everyone’s face showed that they had touched or itched, even knowing that they would get extra credit for coming up clean.
Unfortunately I never had time to set up a proper scientific study with control groups, but my experience, and those who followed my advice was generally positive, most of the antibacterial gel users had hard cracked hands with our resident black fungus in the cracks and occasional infection at the corners of the nails. Why didn’t the gel users stop? They really believed they were protecting themselves.
As for flu, if you keep yourself properly fed including dark leafy vegetables and citrus, don’t work yourself to exhaustion, keep yourself warm, clean, and dry and you should be much more resistant, even if this is finally the super flu that the government has been waiting for all these years. – David in Israel

JWR Adds: I agree that antibacterials are over-used on a day-to-day basis, but they are appropriate in the short term, when a true viral killer is stalking the streets. Many years ago, I heard that mixing 20% (by volume) of aloe vera liquid with typical methyl alcohol-based antibacterial “hand goop” will prevent drying skin. BTW, I’ve noticed that some commercial antibacterials are now sold with aloe added, although I wonder at what ratio.

In addition to disposable gloves, don’t overlook the need for glasses with side protection and disposable booties that can be shed and discarded just before you get in your car or truck. Disposable Tyvek suits [3] are nice, but their use on a daily basis might be prohibitively expensive