Is Antibacterial Handwash Better Than Regular Handwash? | Kids Clinic


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(Last updated: 12 Apr)

Is Antibacterial Handwash Better Than Regular Handwash?

Contributed by: Dr Wendy Sinnathamby

A little girl shows her hands while learning about hygiene practices
Hands are the parts of bodies that have the most contact with everything, from other people to objects in our everyday life, to even our bodies! As adults, we often touch our faces many times a day without realising it, what’s more for children.

In this current COVID-19 period, where hygiene is of utmost importance to protect ourselves against the coronavirus and prevent the spread of disease, the simple act of washing our hands with soap and water has become a critical personal hygiene practice for adults and children alike.

Washing Hands At The Sink
When buying soaps or handwashes, many people tend to reach for products labelled “antibacterial” thinking that it would be more efficacious in getting rid of bacteria than a regular handwash. But are antibacterial soaps really better than regular soaps?

We ask our paediatrician from Kids Clinic @ Mt Tampines, Dr Wendy Sinnathamby some common questions on antibacterial handwashes that people ask these days.

1. Do Antibacterial and Regular Handwashes Kill Germs?

Both antibacterial and regular handwashes do not actually “kill” the various disease-carrying germs but help to remove them from our skin.

2. Be Positive and Realistic.

The molecules in handwashes are made up of two ends- one end that “likes” water (hydrophilic end) and the other end that “likes” oil (hydrophobic end). Our hands tend to have an oily layer which germs stick to.

When we clean our hands with handwash and water, the handwash binds with both the oily layer and water. This helps to rinse off the oily layer on our hands that contains germs, be it bacteria or viruses. Working up a lather when washing with handwash and water allows for more effective cleaning as friction helps to lift up the germ-containing oils better.

How Soap Works To Remove Dirt

3. How are Antibacterial Handwashes Different From Regular Handwashes?

Antibacterial handwashes contain active antimicrobial ingredients that are specifically intended to prevent bacteria from multiplying on our skin, thus reducing the bacteria on our skin. There is, however, a concern that long-term use of these types of handwashes can result in side-effects in the long run since many other household cleaning agents contain similar chemicals.

Furthermore, overuse of antibacterial handwashes may result in increased resistant bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics.

4. Which is Better: Antibacterial Handwash or Regular Handwash?

Any type of handwash can remove germs from our hands as long as it is used properly. There is currently insufficient evidence to prove that antibacterial handwash is better than regular handwash.
Mother Helps Baby To Wash Hands

In a nutshell, washing hands with soap (either antibacterial or regular) and water is the best way to remove germs, and thus lower the chances of us or our children getting sick and preventing the spread of germs to others. Therefore, it is important as parents, to instil this habit of washing hands regularly in our children.

We do understand that teaching your child to practice good hygiene habits isn’t a walk in the park. In this article, Dr Wendy will be sharing more on how you can teach your children the importance of maintaining good hygiene.

About Author
This article is written by Dr Wendy Sinnathamby, a General Paediatrician with more than 20 years of experience. Dr Wendy completed her Paediatric specialist training in the UK and is experienced in newborn screening, growth and development screening, emergency paediatrics, vaccination, travel advice and adolescent medicine.

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