Friday, July 5, 2013

No Handwringing About Handwashing

I am not afraid of the germs.

Oh, I know they are there, I just don't believe in scrubbing them into oblivion. I generally advocate a "you stay over there, I'll stay over here, and we will just go on about our bidness' stance when it comes to living things.  Most of the time, microbes don't hurt us; circumstances have to be just so before someone gets sick.  Most of the time if we get sick, our bodies respond by building immunity.  That is the way it is supposed to work.
I never went along with the whole "Every Bacterium on the Planet Must Die" panic of the last twenty years.  It never seemed like a good idea to me.  Yes, some places need to be scrubbed and disinfected almost hourly, like hospitals and nursing homes.  But people went overboard, and all of a sudden everything was 'antibacterial'.  Mothers were carrying around Purell, and squirting out for their kids every five minutes.   People in the public restrooms looked like they were scrubbing up for surgery, lathering up to the elbows.  Drinking after someone at a water fountain required a hazmat suit.  It got ridiculous.

There have been consequences to all that paranoia.  Triclosan, the major ingredient of antibacterial everything, is in the water supply.  Too much of that stuff causes muscle weakness,not a good thing for people with cerebral palsy.   Kids have been poisoned by the alcohol in some purifiers.  And the bacteria have evolved, becoming resistant to the very medications we take to cure illness. 

Growing up, we were constantly outside playing in the dirt, mud, grass, and lord-only-knows what else. If there was something icky, someone was daring a kid to eat it.  We didn't take baths every day because my parents couldn't afford the water bill.  If we got dirty, most of the time we just got a damp washcloth and rubbed it off, and went about our business.  If we got a cut, we rinsed it out and let it be.  Most of us went barefoot a great deal of the time, stepping in all sorts of things.  If our hands got dirty when we were playing, we would wash our hands with soap.  Not that pump soap, the kinds we have nowadays.  We had bar soap, like Ivory, or my personal favorite, Lava, that we would roll about in our hands under the water, lathering up and flinging the suds at each other.  I can remember occasions where my dad would use bleach, like after he had been fishing, but not much more than that.

Good times.

I still don't wash my hands a lot, and I don't freak out if I can't wash them.  I don't slather my cuts with neosporin, either, just wash them off and let the my body take care of the healing. And you know what?  I have a pretty strong immune system.  Except when it comes to things that I have never encountered before; then I am just like everyone else.  So when I took Zane to a bouncy castle place to play with his friend, and I sat on a random bench to watch him, I brought home an extremely virulent strain of pinkeye.  It hit me within hours, and the next day I went to the doctor, because I knew that it was serious.  The doc advised that I stay away from the masses and wipe down things that I've touched. Oh, and he gave me eyedrops.  Problem solved.  I had a lonesome Fourth of July, but I'm not that big on fireworks, anyway. 

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