Soap or Sanitizer & Flu Shot or Not

Updated on October 21, 2009
F.P. asks from Chesterfield, MO
17 answers

I have 2 questions. I always have my kids wash their hands when they come home from school. Which I always have to remind them before they go grabbing anything out of the fridge or pantry after school. They always give me grief because I guess it "takes too long". Which is better for you washing hands with soap or getting a quick pump from the sanitizer bottle? Also, I'm debating wether or not I should or my kids should get the flu shot. We have always been healthy people, knock on wood. I rarely got sick as a kid. A cold or sore throat once or twice a year. But nothing major than that. If I start getting flu shots and getting my kids started, will that start messing up our natural immune system. My husband doesn't think it's nessasary to get it.

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answers from Wichita on

I work in food service and this question often comes up. I tell my staff that if you have poop on your hands and use hand sanitizer then you just have sanitized poop on your hands. Gross way to say it but it gets the point across.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I think soap is better...not antibacterial, good old soap! You do need to maintain a ph on your hands and some germs are ok.
Second...flu shot. Check the CDC website. Those critically I'll with H1N1 are infected with influenza simultaneously--so, getting one or the other is a good preventative measure from something serious. Call your doc, I'm sure they can help advise further on the flu in your area. If your travelling at all in the next few months...tell your doctor that as well! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

the flu shot is a very personal issue and I just wish we had better studies and better access to information in this country. For myself and my family, I've read a lot about the vaccines and have decided not to get them. As for handwashing, a mom at my daughter's preschool said her hubby was taking microbiology classes or something and studied it and water alone was better than sanitizer...the more water the better (but obviously soap if you have it is even better). I use wipes when we are out, but sanitizer is used on occasion. As for fighting the flu, has great recommendations for staying healthy including getting your vitamin D and omega-3s --good advice whether you get the vaccine or not (just know that Dr. Mercola is against the swine flu vaccine and regular flu vaccine...there's lots of info about those on there too)

If You Really Want to Avoid the Flu …(from

Staying healthy and avoiding all types of flu has nothing to do with getting a vaccine and everything to do with leading a healthy lifestyle.

I have not caught the flu in over two decades, and you can avoid it too by following these simple guidelines, which will keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you're far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with.

1. Optimize your vitamin D levels. As I've previously reported, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency is likely the TRUE culprit behind the seasonality of the flu -- not the flu virus itself.

I would STRONGLY urge you to have your vitamin D level monitored to confirm your levels are therapeutic at 50-70 and done by a reliable vitamin D lab like Lab Corp.

If you are coming down with flu like symptoms and have not been on vitamin D you can take doses of 50,000 units a day for three days to treat the acute infection. Some researchers like Dr. Cannell believe the dose could even be as high as 1,000 units per pound of body weight for three days.

However, most of Dr. Cannell's work was with seasonal and not pandemic flu. If your body has never been exposed to the antigens there is chance that the vitamin D might not work. Your best bet is to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D around 60 ng/ml.

2. Avoid Sugar and Processed Foods. Sugar decreases the function of your immune system almost immediately, and as you likely know, a strong immune system is key to fighting off viruses and other illness. Remember that sugar is present in foods you may not suspect, like ketchup and fruit juice.

3. Get Enough Rest. If your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight the flu. Be sure to check out my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for some great tips to help you get quality rest.

4. Have Effective Tools to Address Stress. If stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness.

If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using a tool such as the meridian tapping technique, which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma.

5. Exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads. You can review my exercise guidelines for some great tips on how to get started.

6. Take a good source of animal-based omega-3 fats like krill oil. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also vitally important to avoid damaged omega-6 oils like trans fats as it will seriously damage your immune response.

7. Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or to other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap for this -- antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple chemical-free soap that you can switch your family to.

8. Use All-Natural 'Antibiotics'. Freshly crushed garlic cloves work like a broad-spectrum antibiotic against bacteria, virus, and protozoa in your body. And unlike with antibiotics, no resistance can be built up so it is an absolutely safe product to use. However, if you are allergic or don't enjoy garlic it would be best to avoid as it will likely cause more harm than good.

Other all-natural antibiotics include olive leaf extract and oil of oregano.

9. Avoid Hospitals and Vaccines. In this particular case, I'd also recommend you stay away from hospitals unless you have an emergency, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infections of all kinds, and could be one of the likeliest places you could be exposed to this new bug.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Definatly use the soap over germx. Now I have gone to the extreme and loaded my house with bacteria wipes, lysol, and germix...and the family jug of soap! With 5 kids (4 in school which has a lot of kids out sick for the past 3 weeks) I want to be as pro active as I can. I'm surprised the kids aren't complaining. They not only have to wash hands (this has never changed..flu season or not) but now they each have a trial size germx to carry around with them to use as they need. Plus at least once a day they have to wipe down their desks in their rooms and the game tables downstairs. Germix is used before video games and computer. We had two sick so was the flu. Now looks like the other two school girls just have a cold. I am not giving flu shots. They will be fine. I use to get them when I worked in the health field because it was required. I did however get the H1N1 because I am pregnant. Couldn't get the flu shot because they were out. The kids however will not be getting the H1N1. 2yrs ago the 4 girls all got the flue back to back...funny thing is I didn't get it from them. I think good hygeine is the best rememdy. Make sure kids are coughing/sneezing into arm, not the air. If they happen to do it in their hands, WASH THEM! If any of them do get sick, just watch them closely for changes. If having any difficultly with breathing go to ER. I know my children's doctor is not giving any Rx for the flu (tamaflu) unless they have an infection. I have read about this as well. If child has a fever for 3 days...Call. Speak to doctor/nurse if your child does get sick and they will tell you all the steps you need to help your child and when or if you need to bring your child in. I hope you and your family have a healthy winter....whichever you decided to do. ~H.



answers from Wichita on

Good Morning F P, I have never had a flu shot and don't plan to start now :) I am not convinced that H1N1 shot or nasal spray is safe. I have never had a flu type illness either, colds yea but never the flu. To many ( one is to many) people have passed always after getting the flu shot as reported on the news etc.. Saying they had underlying illness's to cause them to die. NO one has ever said what those Underlying illness's were.
Now the shot or flu seems to be affecting teens with no reasoning behind it. I just do not trust it to be safe yet, so my gr kids will not be getting it. We use pump antibacterial soap in the kitchen and bathrooms. Bar soaps ( i've read) can hold germs.

Dr. Alyssa got me started on Oscilla and it does work on colds also. (Thank you Dr. Alyssa). My daughter in law started feeling like she was getting a cold, scratchy throat, sinus's plugged then draning. I picked her up some and she was feeling alot better the next day. It is less expensive at Wal-Mart the like Walgreens. $4.00 more for both the adult and childrens Oscilla at Walgreens. Plus a vitamin D supplement.

I have a sanitizer in my purse for when we are out and need something now.

I won't be getting the shot and I don't have any fear of getting the flu either.

Go with your own instincts, they can't force us to get it.
God Bless F P
K. Nana of 5



answers from Kansas City on

I only use the hand sanitizers IF there is no soap and water available. Your skin is your biggest organ and just something about the chemicals and/or the alcohol in my system just doesn't sound right.

I also have never had a flu shot and neither has member of my family. *I am a registered nurse too. Overall we're healthy, don't eat a lot of sugar or junky processed/packaged foods. Do we get sick? Sure. My 14 year old just had something. BUT she had a temp for 2 days and was back to school. Even my 19 year old college student (think about staying up late, not eating well and partying too much) didn't get sick his entire first year of school!

I do think there are certain high risk groups that it may be beneficial for but if you are otherwise healthy I wouldn't get one. Why try to fix what isn't broke?

Good Luck and In good health,

L. K



answers from Kansas City on

So first soap! Sanitizer is great if you can't get to a sink with soap and water, but it doesn't do nearly as good of a job, especially with virus (flu is viral), so always if you can, soap and water...children frequently don't want to do what's best for them, I understand, but this I would hold firm to. Second, particularly with how bad this flu season is already, I really recommend the shots, including H1N1, and I'll tell you a little story as to why. My next door neighbor's son and my son are best friends, we didn't join little league together this year because we moved to KC. Shortly after we left, the coaches son got the flu for the first time ever, no more than a cold previous, no other major health issues. He ended up passing away from complications, he was 6. The problem this year particularly is not that your children are sickly, it's that they are bound to come in contact with kids that are and the flu itself, this year it's dangerous, especially for small children. I just look at it this way, the shot/nasal sprays are safe, you won't get sick from them and how would you feel if your child got the flu severely and you didn't choice the shot? I was a very healthy athlete all through school, my junior year of high school I got the flu, this is before flu shots, everyone got this flu that year, the high school closed 3 days before Christmas due to low attendance, I was kept on IVs at home because my mother was a nurse practitioner and the hospital was full. I am 5'4", I went down to 70lbs, I couldn't stand up, it was awful. After that flu, I got sick every winter, it really affected my bodies ability to fight for years. Then the flu shot came out, I got the first year, I haven't had the flu since. I could never live with myself if I didn't get my son the shot, just in case he got the flu like I did and had to not only deal with that but the health ramifications following it. Just something to think about, especially knowing that there really is no risk in getting the shot.



answers from Wichita on

I thought the same thing with my daughter so I didnt get her immunized until this year (shes 3 now). My doctor ripped me a new one last year and actually made me feel like a bad parent for not getting her immunized. My daughter got very sick with an allergic reaction to blueberries so she of course was rushed to the doctor. The doctor suggested that since she was so sick, why wouldnt I immunize her to prevent other illnesses? Even though the reason we were there wasnt because the flu. I would suggest getting it. The risk of your child getting the flu and dying is a real possibility since its such a complex and serious illness for children and the elderly. However, it is your choice ultimately!! You make the decision. I did it for the first time this year. No problems so far (we just did it yesterday). I would not recommend the H1N1 vaccination though! Its too new and rushed to market in my opinion. Good luck with your decision, it is ultimately yours, and dont let anyone think youre being a bad parent for not getting it. Im still kind of upset with that doctor who told me that!



answers from Wichita on

Handwashing - If they don't wash their hands correctly (as along as it takes to sing the Birthday song) just have them use the hand sanitizer. Kids don't seem to mind the taste. Even better put the hand sanitizer in the car so they can clean their hands even before they get home.

Flu shot - The flu shot and all immunizations are designed to teach the body to reconginize and respond to an antigen (virus or bacteria). Think about it like this: You learned to start a fire (from scratch). You don't need it everyday, but if you were ever lost in the wilderness it could save your life. Getting an immunization is "teaching" your body to be ready for the exposure to those germs. Also I work at a hospital and we have had some extremely sick patients who were formally very healthy people.



answers from St. Louis on

Everyone has there own opinion of the flu shot. I am a nurse in a hospital. Every infectious disease doctor I have talked to have gotten the shot and had their own children vaccinated. They get paid to treat people who are sick with these viruses, so their opinion is good enough for me. People who say they "get sick" from the shot are misinformed. The vaccine is a dead virus and cannot get you sick. If you get sick after the shot it is merely coincidental and you must have been immunocomprimised prior to the vaccine. I will always always always get my children and myself the shot. Children have died from the flu. Some children and adults cannot get the shot due to reaction or allergy and they obviously should not get it. And no, it will not "mess up" their immune system.



answers from Kansas City on

These are topics that have come up again and again in my Microbiology class! You do not want to use sanitizer all the time - you do have good bacteria on your skin that you need to help fight the bad ones. Along this line, do not use the anti-bacterial soaps, just stick with regular soap. If you are somewhere without a sink, then yes, use the hand sanitizer - just don't make a habit of it.

As far as the flu shots (the regular and H1N1) my opinion is yes, get them. The flu can mutate so fast and so aggressively it isn't worth it to me to put my son in danger. Especially the H1N1 - the majority of those affected by it are children! I would rather have the immunization for my son and myself than to be paranoid about keeping him out of the public. There are too many people that will go out in public if they are sick (possibly infecting others) rather than stay home and take care of themselves. By going out in public they are exposing EVERYONE around them to their illnesses! Even if they aren't exhibiting symptoms at that time, the viruses and/or bacteria can still be transmitted to others.

I'll get off of my soapbox now - I need to wash my hands! :)



answers from Wichita on

If you have ever tasted the sanitizer after it has dried you wouldn't want your kids to eat anything with their fingers. We only use sanitizer when we can't get to a sink with soap. One person did mention about bar soap & germs. I have hear that is true, so we use the foam pump soap (other wise my 3 y/o would never get it all rinsed off).
We are usually pretty healthy, but me & my kids still get anual flu shots. My husband doesn't do shots (but he got all of his imunizations as a kid). I figure that if you imunize your kids against the normal childhood vacines you should get the flu shot. However my family will not be getting the N1H1 shot.
Any shot messes with your natural immune system (for the better). It builds it up just like if you got the illness without the shots. Your immune system just knows how to fight better if you have had the shot.

God bless!



answers from Kansas City on

hi! i agree with most the other comments about the soap thing. if you have the sink with soap, use it, but you don't want to be OCD about it either. i use hand sanitizer just as often as washing my hands, so i'm sure it's fine either way.
about the flu shot...everyone has their own opinion, but i've never had it, and my son will never have it again. he got it as a baby when they get their "first set of shots" because i felt so pressured by the dr. he was then sick for 15 days and another dr (3 other drs actually) told me it was cuz he got the flu shot and it body was fighting it off. it was AWFUL!!! the only way your body is going to get immune to it, is to fight it off when you do get it(and the shot will give it to you)...but i take my chances with getting it the old fashion way. :) the flu shot only prevents certain flus...not all flus!! my son is now 4 almost 5 and he has never been sick besides your basic "changing of the seasons cold" just like the rest of our family. it's totally up to the parent, but most drs recommend it and they will stick to that.
good luck with everything!!


answers from St. Joseph on

Personally, I like good old fashioned soap. I even go the lengths to let them pick the pump soap we have in the bathroom so it's not a "disgusting" smell that mom picked (they've picked singing pumps and all sorts of flavors). I'm not really keen on the whole hand sanitizer gel thing and never really have been and here's why: I find that if my hands are dirty I still SEE the dirt AND because of the high alcohol content in it my hands will dry, crack and bleed during the winter. I prefer keeping a package of wet wipes or other anti-bacterial wipes in the car for emergencies.

As for the flu shot...years ago I used to get it because I was in a professional spot where I was coming into contact with a lot of seniors and I felt it was my obligation to do so...every year I felt WORSE or got sick where I had never gotten sick before. In the past 3 years I haven't gotten the flu shot nor have I subjected my kids to them and we've all been fine. My feeling is that the swine flu is may be a little more severe than other strains but good old influenza had killed MORE people every year than the swine flu has in it's existance! Having said that, AND having read the pros and cons of the shots, I've opted not to do it this year. My DH is in the Army and he got the live viral (nose spray) last week and was MISERABLE for a week and is still recovering. Frankly, I don't need that...and what the military gets is often times DIFFERENT and better (and safer) than what the civilian population gets...I don't think I'm ready to gamble with my children's health or mine for a hyped up commericalized virus. People in our county have already been infected so getting the shot at this point is really a mute will not have enough time to get into your system and build up proper antibodies before you would probably get the virus anyway. To truly have been covered for this fall you should have gotten the shot in spring.

I think the best course is to be aware of what the symptoms are and if you have them get to your doctor within 48 hours as I understand there are some medications that they can give you that may lessen the effects of the virus but are only good for that short window...apparently a blood sample will confirm quickly whether you have H1N1 or not. Keep on a healthy food course, take your vitamins, keep yourself hydrated, and of course wash your hands. ;)



answers from Kansas City on

soap is always best, hand sanitizer should be for when you dont have access to soap (when you're out of the house or something).

Also, we always get flu shots in our house. We arent super bothered about the swine flu one, whenever it becomes available we'll probably get it, but we arent sweating it. If your kids' school is having a lot of flu, it probably wouldnt be a bad idea to get them the flu shot, since they'll probably be exposed. Unless they're allergic to eggs, in which case the flu shot would be bad since they use eggs to make it somehow. (i'm not a scientist....hee) good luck in your decisions.


answers from Topeka on

Hand sanitizers should be used when soap and water are not readily available. That is a fact.

Now on to my opinion (LOL) I am skeptical about the flu shot. A few years ago at a check-up, the doctor offered for my then 7 year old son to get the flu shot. I agreed. Well the very next day he had the full blown flu! Do I think he already had the germs? Nope, and of course I can not know that for sure. And no one can claim medically that the flu shot will not give you the flu.

Now I know there are ALOT of people who get the flu shot and everything works out just fine. So really, I think it all boils down to what you really think is the right thing to do.



answers from St. Louis on

Everyone has an opinion on flu shots so I just thought I'dput my 2 cents in as well! :o) I NEVER got a flu shot in my life until I ws pregnant with my first son and my OB practically forced me to get it. I think I've had one since then. My husband hs always gotten flu shots and was pretty firm that our kids should get them. I've gotten my kids the flu shot each year they could have it. I have had the actual flu once this year (ugh!) but I haven;t gotten myself vaccinated... It seems I'm rambling and I guess I am. What I do know is that I do not plan to get my kids the H1N1 vaccine atthis point.
I believe a good handwashing beats a hand sanitizer anytime, but a good glob of hand sanitizer is better than nothing! My husband makes fun of my year round dry hands b/c I'm obsesses with hand washing. I used to work in an office where I would shake hands often and touoch lots of things other people had touched and I guess that's how I got started. My kids enjoy using the foam soap over regular soap, and I figured out I can buy a bulk container of antibactial handsoap and reuse the foam dispenser. Add 2/3 water and then 1/3 regular handsoap.
On the flu shot, i do want to add that this year my oldest got the flu-mist that just gets squirted into his nose and I have to say that I think it did end up making him sick for a few days. Obviously it could just be coincidence, but I don't think I'll get that for him again.

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