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Can Being Too Clean Make You Sick?

December 8, 2010, 6:10 PM by Kelli Grant

Can Being Too Clean Make You Sick?
BALTIC, SD - A new study suggests that kids who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers may be at an increased risk for allergies.

More studies need to be done, but that does beg the question, can being too clean make you sick?

Baltic computer teacher Laureen Mehlert has a pretty good routine going in class.

“We ask that when they come into the lab, they sanitize and it takes just a tiny little bit, the size of a pea. We have them sanitize when they come in, sit down and log in.  Go through class and than have them log out and then sanitize on their way out,” Mehlert said.

It all started last year when H1N1 swept through schools across the country.  During cold and flu season, Mehlert sees a lot of illness sweep through the building.

“They're constantly coughing and sneezing and it has been proven that keyboards are some of the germiest things that they touch all day,” Mehlert said.

In fact, this teacher says since she introduced hand sanitizer in her classroom, she hasn't been as sick and neither have her students.

“They're not spreading it from class to class and room to room,” Mehlert said.

But is it possible that being too clean can make us sick?

“It does kind of make some intuitive sense that if we're exposed to more viruses and things like that, we may develop more immunity and then not have trouble later on,” Avera Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Aris Assimacopoulos said.

Assimacopoulos says nobody really knows whether over using hand sanitizer will help to avoid a cold or the flu.

“We think it might because if we keep cleaning our hands then maybe we won’t get those things on them.  We won't touch our nose or face or eyes and transmit that. So I don't know; there’s no data to tell really,” Assimacopoulos said.

But he says there needs to be a happy medium between over using sanitizer and not using it at all.

“I think it's important in certain circumstances but I don't know that it's really the, 'be all and the end all solution,' to passing infection from one person to another as maybe people think about it being,” Assimacopoulos said.

But for now, Mehlert will keep the bottle handy for students and herself. It's part of a routine and one she says is working.

“I'm not catching what they might have. So it really, I use it a lot. I use it just about every class period,” Mehlert said.

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