COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This piece of information has single-handedly shaped the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, enforcing a range of social distancing measures aimed at reducing the risk of transmission through these means. A key part of this message has been to wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds.
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Naturally, the market for hand washing products has exploded in response.
However, you should think twice about the type of hand wash you buy, according to Dr Diana Gall, of online service Doctor-4-U.
According to Dr Diana Gall, two ingredients found in hand wash can actually weaken your system.
The two ingredients in question are triclosan and triclocarban.
Dr Gall explained: “It’s all very well that people are trying to stockpile antibacterial hand wash.
“But it’s been proven that certain antibacterial and antifungal agents which are added to some products can have adverse effects on the immune system.”
She continued: “Look out for triclosan and triclocarban on labels before purchasing antibacterial hand washes.
“The strong man-made chemicals can strip the skin of useful bacteria which live on it to protect our bodies and reduce the all-important immune safety net.”
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The risks posed by these ingredients is not new knowledge.
Triclosan and triclocarban were originally developed in the 1960s to target the growth of bacteria and are commonly found in consumer products such as soaps, detergents and toothpaste.
However, in 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put a ban on the sale of antibacterial hand washes containing both compounds.
The ruling came after several studies found antimicrobial agents to be hazardous to health.
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Dangers included potential development of antibiotic-resistant germs, hormone alteration and a weakened immune system.
While there has been no official ban on products containing them in the UK, certain brands have limited their use.
But with some hand washes still containing triclosan and triclocarban, Dr Gall is advising members of the public to always check the ingredients.
She said: “During the pandemic we need to be extra cautious to protect our immune system and keep it as strong as possible.
Dr Gall added: “While these hand wash ingredients are not deadly, the use of them every day could break down defences which could put you more at risk of contracting coronavirus.
“Even if you are not worried about the effects that getting the virus could have on you, we need to be doing our bit to protect those who are most vulnerable.
“So continue to follow government guidelines and wash your hands regularly, but take a bit of time to consider what you are washing your hands with.
“Using a simple bar of soap and water for 20 seconds will do the trick if you are unsure and is less expensive than many branded supermarket products too.”
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