Dear Dr. Kadile, I work in the fitness industry as a personal trainer. I frequently work at several different gyms with different clients in one day. Is using hand sanitizer between gyms and clients as good as washing my hands?
-Lyn, La Quinta

Lyn, gyms and fitness equipment are notoriously full of nasty germs, since not everybody uses a towel or wipes down the equipment after using it.

Hand sanitizers are generally made up of alcohol, glycerin, water and maybe some fragrance added. The alcohol is the main germ fighter. A good hand sanitizer should have an alcohol concentration of at least 60 percent. Hand sanitizer is beneficial if hand washing is unavailable, but it is not as good. Using a hand sanitizer is good in addition to hand washing. Really, the best way to clean your hands is with soap and water. Washing gets rid of most germs and breaks up oils and removes dirt, which can hide bacteria and germs. Hand sanitizer simply works on the surface of the skin, whereas hand washing will get the water and soap into the small cracks and crevices of the skin. You’ve got the right idea in cleansing your hands between clients, but hand washing is better than hand sanitizer.

Dear Dr. Kadile, is antibacterial soap better than regular soap?
-Glen, Palm Desert

Glen, research has shown that plain soaps are just as effective as antibacterial soaps in reducing bacteria related illnesses. As I’ve said in previous issues of CV Weekly, most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, thus antibacterial soap wouldn’t help in preventing colds and flu. Proper and thorough hand washing is the key, so make sure you wash your hands for at least 20-30 seconds.

Dear Dr. Kadile, I always seem to have a lot of ear wax, even though I clean my ears regularly with Q-tips. How can I control my wax problem?
=John, Bermuda Dunes

John, the hair follicles and glands in your ear canal produce ear wax to protect the ear from dust, bacteria, germs and small objects. Most of the time, wax (cerumen), will make its way to the outer opening of the ear and fall out, but sometimes the wax may build up and cause a blockage in the ear canal. Q-tips are meant to clean the outer ear and should never be placed into the ear canal. I very frequently see patients who use Q-tips in their ears and they are essentially pushing the ear wax deeper into the ear canal. Most wax problems can be taken care of at home. You can soften the ear wax using body temperature water, over the counter ear drops, baby oil or hydrogen peroxide. If you can’t get it out on your own, then you should see your doctor. Interestingly, smokers produce more ear wax than non-smokers, so if you smoke, consider quitting.