Hygiene can be too much of a good thing

They are called clean freaks and though it's usually women who have this annoying hygienic streak, there are a number of men who can drive a visitor insane with their hygiene obsession.

Compulsive cleaners aren't happy with just a dishwasher so they invest in more abrasive detergents that guarantee the "murder" of 99percent of germs.

If you give them soap, make sure it is anti-bacterial and antiseptic and then soon they will have to start buying antibiotics.

Silindile Mtirara, a doctor, says: "In the end these people find that they need antibiotics because when you continually use antiseptic products your system becomes dependent on them.

"Your body's system is born with its natural germ fighters: the 'good bacteria'.

"Overuse of anti-bacterial soaps, antiseptics, antibacterial toothpastes and shampoos slowly kills the good bacteria that keep the bad bacteria in check.

"Once that has happened, your bad bacteria multiply and you get recurring infections and allergies," he says.

Mtirara says that ordinary soap is fine and even babies are better off using ordinary baby soap.

Sterile gels and antibacterial creams should not be used without a prescription.

"Doctors administer antibiotics and antiseptics because they have been trained in the life span, patterns and the balancing of good bacteria against other bacteria in the body and so they will prescribe a certain dose of antibiotics with all that information in mind," he says.

"The concept is that children who are raised in an overly sterilised environment have immune systems that are not challenged by bad bacteria and do not develop and mature properly."

He says many chemicals used in the manufacture of these products are harsh on the skin and can leave it open to infections and sores.

There is nothing deadly about anti-bacterial soaps and other such cleaning agents, but they need to be used under supervision and over a prescribed period.

Otherwise triclosan - a bacterial element found in these detergents - will do the reverse of what is intended.

Because of their triclosan content, anti-bacterial soaps can allow stronger bacteria to flourish.

"I advise patients to follow the prescribed method of taking the medication because forgetting to take it or abandoning it, or obsessing over it, causes bad bacteria to attack the body more ferociously than before," Mtirara says.