Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Dirt Never Hurt Anybody

As much as I miss my hubby when he travels for business, there is one aspect of his absence that I kind of enjoy. There’s no need to clean. Not that he is fussy; he isn’t. He never says a word about the condition of the house – bless him. But when he is here I feel a need to show some evidence that I’ve been doing my job. Until this writing gig starts to actually produce an income, my main job is still the kids and the house and all the nonsense outside. I’ve said all along, the only reason I want to get published and make money is so I can hire a cleaning person. That hasn’t changed.

This has been a busy summer for Nick, so the house has been enjoying a little rest too. Even so, I do the minimum – the toilets, the kitchen floor and counters, and sometimes I even vacuum.

I only feel self-conscious about this lack of cleanliness when I visit someone else’s sparkling house. I admire them, but I don’t feel the need to emulate them. I think a little dirt never hurt anyone. In fact, I think a little dirt is good for everyone. We all need some good germs. I’m serious about this. Bacteria challenge our immune system. If our immune system is never challenged, how will it grow strong enough to truly protect us?

A few months ago I was in the pediatrician’s office for my son’s well-check up. A cute young mom came in with her cute young offspring. The baby looked to be maybe a year. As she was checking in, the little girl reached for the antibacterial hand wash on the counter. The mom squirted some in her hand and told the receptionist how much her darling loved antibacterial wash. In fact, to keep her quiet and happy, I watched this mom squirt antibacterial hand wash in to her daughter’s outstretched hands five times just while she was signing in and making her co-pay. Then in the 10 minutes while I waited for my son (he’s too old for mom to accompany him in to see the doc), she proceeded to follow her toddler over to the counter to fill her hands probably ten more times.

I wanted to yank the soap off the counter and fling it out the window only after explaining to this woman that she’s not only fueling a future OCD issue, she’s ensuring that she and her daughter will spend many more mornings in the doctor’s office.

Germs are good sometimes. Why are we so hung up on avoiding them? Dr. Mary Ruebush, an immunologist and author of Why Dirt is Good says, “It keeps your immune cells, which are there to protect you, multiplying and reproducing.” If we don’t expose our immune system to bacteria, how will it be ready when you really need it to protect you?

What’s more, all this handwashing and anti-bacterial this and that and overuse of antibiotics is setting us all for a real epidemic. The anti-bacterial agents used in those wonderful handwashes contain some of the same ingredients that are in some of our antibiotics. The heavy use of these antibacterial washes is training bacteria to resist them, instead of training our systems to resist the bacteria. See the problem here?

I know this post belongs in the throws of flu season, but it’s on my mind now. This time of year, my kids are covered in mud, sand, dirt, bug bites, poison ivy, and sunburn. When other kids come to play, most parents know to pack extra clothes because more than likely, the ones they are wearing will get filthy, wet, or torn. It goes with the territory. And before these dirt-packed children come in the door, I instruct them to go clean up with the hose. There is no anti-bacterial soap involved. Water works just fine in this circumstance.

At bedtime, if the kids are too filthy to get in bed, they might hop in the shower or bath, but you won’t find any antibacterial soap in our house. In fact, you won’t find any soap in our tub at all. My kids have seriously dry, sensitive skin and soap irritates them. Hot water and a wash cloth will take care of all but the worst. If there’s a possibility of poison ivy, they wash off with dish soap just in the areas that were exposed.

Before meals and snacks, they do wash their hands with soap (I hope!). My two favorites are an organic tea tree oil soap I get at Trader Joes and a goat-milk soap made with added coffee grounds which act as an exfoliator to help scrub the dirt off. The goat-milk soap comes from a local vendor who make their soaps by hand (Wash Your Mouth Out Soap).

No anti-bacterial soap for us. I’m not worried about a little bacteria. You shouldn’t be either. If you want to worry about bacteria, worry about the bacteria you’re eating when you stop for a fast food burger, cook up an egg raised on a factory farm, or munch on non-organic produce from half-way around the world. Now that’s some seriously dangerous bacteria.

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