Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Unsanitised Health

I have steadfastly refused to use hand sanitizers like Purell, insisting they take away good bacteria as well as bad and end up making germs more resilient.  Today’s Post article would say I am right.

My first encounter with Purell-mania was when we went on a cruise soon after the swine flu outbreak.  There were Purell dispensers every 100 feet on that ship and people were practically bathing in it in the hope of remaining germ-free.
I recently saw a young mother line up her 3 children upon entering a local store to clean their little hands.  People have bought into this on a large scale, undoubtedly boosting the price of shares in the companies that make this stuff.
But there on the front page of today’s Post is an article “Good bugs may be key to staying healthy.”  It turns out a lot of things -- bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms -- live on our skin with only one in 10 cells being human.  All these things work together to maintain a healthy balance in our body’s function.  
Scientists are becoming convinced that when we interfere with that balance by things like diet, antibiotics, and obsession with cleanliness, we run the risk opening the door to all sorts of things we don’t want -- like allergies, obesity, asthma, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and even autism.
Think twice before squirting Purell onto your hands or taking unnecessary antibiotics.  You could be asking for trouble!


Blogger lacochran's evil twin said...

AMEN, Sister!!!

The secretary ordered Purell for everyone in the office. I returned mine, unused. No thanks. There are much worse things than a few germs.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I totally agree with you about those hand sanitizers even though I'm actually a bit of a germophobe. They seem like artificial germ protection to me. There are other more effective ways to avoid coming into contact with excess germs and the ones that do slip through are probably good for you!

11:31 PM  
Blogger Steve Reed said...

I think Purell is pretty disgusting. I mean, it doesn't CLEAN your hands, it just kills everything. So then you're walking around with hands that are still dirty! Bleah.

I've read articles suggesting that the lack of exposure to bacteria and dirt are contributing to the surge of allergies among suburban children. Nobody plays in the yard anymore! So yes, some germs and germ exposure can be beneficial.

It kind of freaks me out, though, that only 1 in 10 cells on my skin is human. Really?!

10:00 AM  
Blogger Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

Thank you for this great post. Turns out that antimicrobial cleansers are actually a great threat to our environment too, already causing damage to sensitive fish and amphibian populations in our waterways. Not to mention the risk to human health over time of the accumulation of all sorts of antibiotics and other chemicals in drinking water supplies.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kirsten -- I hadn't even considered the environmental impact. Arrgh!

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good ole soap and water. Once I started asking my students/clients to wash their hands right before entering my studio, my winter colds/flus dropped dramatically.

I carry "gentle" individual hand wipes with me for times I can't wash up. I'm with Steve -- even though like Cyndy I'm slightly germophobic, hand sanitizer goop totally grosses me out, and I never use it. But ask me again if I ever go to a crowded place with absolutely no running water, though...:-)


1:25 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I hate to be the dissenting voice in this hate fest for hand sanitizers, but I work in a small office that does not have access to running water. I work with individuals who do not communicate when they are a little sick, so they tend to get _really_ sick. These individuals have poor habits, like sticking their fingers in their mouths or noses just before handling my materials. One of my students didn't know what to do with the post-nasal drip in his mouth, so he puts it on his hands and then rubs it on his cheek. Another student saves bits of dirt or sand for a tasty snack, only made better by bubble juice. I am sorry if this makes you sick to your stomach(as it does me), but this is my reality. I use hand sanitizer on their hands when they first come into my office. When they put their fingers in their mouth or nose, I wipe their hands with an antibacterial baby wipe. After they are gone, I wipe down their area with Clorox cleaner wipes. When I run out of any of these products (that I supply myself), I usually get sick. I don't use hand sanitizer at home, but I sure do at work!

1:02 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon F, Kelly -- You both are exposed to students all day long, so I'm sure germs are an issue for you. I like the idea of having students wash their hands right before entering one's space, but in Kelly's case, it sounds like this is not possible. If I got sick often enough, I'm sure I too might resort to chemicals.

1:11 PM  

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