Hands off the hand sanitizer

The cure is worse than the disease. Historians attribute the Renaissance scientist and statesman Sir Francis Bacon with that apt quote. And it certainly describes modern medicine’s treatment of the flu and other common viruses.

To combat what was once considered a minor annoyance, modern doctors hand out flu vaccines and drugs like lollipops. Over-anxious mothers squirt antibacterial gel on their toddlers’ hands after every play date and story time.

But all these tactics to control flu may be fruitless…and even dangerous. The flu vaccine and antiviral drugs are being uncovered as ineffective for key populations and fraught with side effects for many. Plus, in a new study, Norwegian scientists found a strong link between triclosan—the agent found in hand sanitizer that I discussed in more detail in the November issue of Insiders’ Cures—and the development of allergies in children.

But let me get back to Sir Francis for just a moment…

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1621), the First Viscount St. Alban, was a British natural scientist and philosopher. He also served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. A true Renaissance man.

In Bacon’s time, people worried more about infections such as the Black Death or the Plague than they did about a minor case of the sniffles.

And even in the 20th century, the flu (with the exception of the pandemic of 1918-19) was mostly just an annual inconvenience that resulted in a few lost days of work or school. It went away as quickly as it arrived.

In the 21st century, however, the academic-government-industrial-medical behemoth has grown faster than the virus itself. With a new industry to “control” the flu. Plus, legions of tax-supported science bureaucrats dole out misinformation to the public. They make it sound like it’s your civic duty to get a flu shot.

So now we have something else to combat, in addition to the flu. And it’s even more ferocious—and voracious.

But those who have studied the immune system find that some exposure to certain viruses and bacteria actually can help. It keeps the immune system strong, balanced and “in tune.”

Plus, the normal infectious diseases of childhood such as chicken pox (which now have been largely eradicated) were thought to actually contribute to the development of a healthy immune system in children.

However, increasing evidence suggests that younger generations have weakened immune systems. Today, kids drink cow’s milk, eat processed foods, and skip the normal diseases of childhood. Together, these changes can wreak havoc on their natural immunity.

And adding to the problem of disordered immunity in children comes a new concern. The new research from Norway I mentioned above shows that exposure to the popular “anti-bacterial” agent triclosan sensitizes children with asthma to inhaled and seasonal allergies. It also increases their susceptibility to rhinitis. 

Triclosan is a toxin. That fact cannot be disputed. Yet you’ll now find triclosan in toothpaste, mouthwash (which is toxic to the microbiome even without triclosan), deodorant (which may contain other toxicities), soap, sportswear, toys, and plastic kitchenware. You’ll also find it in the ubiquitous hand sanitizer gels labeled as “anti-bacterial.”

Bacon also said that, “knowledge is power.” I try to empower you to make informed decisions about your health both in my Insiders’ Cures newsletter and here in the Daily Dispatch. Hopefully, you now know enough to skip the hand sanitizer and use good old regular soap and water to wash your hands (and your face too). And if you happen to get the flu, drink plenty of fluids and get some rest.

“Triclosan exposure and allergic sensitization in Norwegian children.” Allergy 2013; 68(1):84-91.