A little bit of dirt wont hurt you but your soap might

May 19, 2005

The Bottom Line Stronger is not always better, take time to read labels just as you would for foods. What you use on your body is as important as what goes into it.

I once read an article that stated that Americans are obsessively clean, and while I agree with this statement the problem is being obsessed with cleanliness is not helping in our fight against diseases and it is robbing our children of their immune systems.

I was watching Discovery Health Channel one evening when I heard about a study that showed children who grew up on farms seemed to fight off infections and minor illnesses faster and with fewer complications compared to children that grew up in more urban environments. The main reason stated for this was their exposure to more germs early in life and that they were allowed to "get dirty " during playtime. It seems we have become so over protective of our children when it comes to everyday dirt that we are actually preventing them from building healthy immune systems.

Now I am not saying to let your child skip bathing or washing their hands before they eat but think of how many times you ( or other care givers ) say " don't get dirty ." I know when my son was younger I said it a lot, though once I started to learn about this problem I relaxed my thinking. I stopped using antibacterial soaps and gels, and I try to educate everyone I can. My son been healthier for it and he enjoys playing more. He still bathes regularly and washes his hands before he eats, but nothing makes a child happier than to be able to play without worrying about getting dirty.

This topic may be familiar to some as I have written other opinions on this subject but I felt a need to update it for the upcoming summer. My first opinion focused mainly on antibacterial products so I am including that info her as well. I have continued to search for information that backs claims that these products are very harmful to us. It has been my opinion for years that we are being misled by the manufacturers of these household cleaners.

Dr. Stuart Levy a Microbiologist from Tufts University has been quoted as stating that one of the problems is all that scrubbing may be weakening our immune systems, killing germs and spurring the growth of mutant strains of drug-resistant bacteria. I know that it has been proven that while these products do kill the bad bacteria, they also attack the good bacteria that our bodies need in order to protect us from illness. It has been said by Dr. Levy and other immunologists that some bacteria are the good guys, strengthening our bodies defenses and warding off germs. The main problem is there is no way to kill bad bacteria without doing harm to the "good " bacteria our bodies need to function properly.

A lot of these products are geared toward families with children yet the overuse of these types of products can be especially damaging to infants. One of the things that Dr. Levy said in a recent speech was that, "Exposure to bacteria is essential for development of an infant's immune system because a baby must be exposed to germs in the first year in order to develop antibodies needed to fight infection later in life."

By using antibacterial soaps and taking antibiotic medications at the first sign of an illness upsets the natural balance leaving us with these "Super bugs " that become so resistant to antibiotics that scientists are scrambling to find stronger antibiotics to fight them off. Scientists have only confirmed what I have taught my EMT students for years and taught the children and parents at the school I worked at is that plain old soap and water are the best for daily cleansing. You can still find soap and cleaning products without the antibacterial properties in the sea of products out there it only takes a little effort for a happy and healthier family.

Do yourself and your family a favor unless there is someone who has HIV, AIDS, is receiving treatment for cancer or have other immune disorders in the house save the antibacterial products for hospital or industrial uses. Please recommend this to any person willing to listen it is one small way to protect all of us.

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Member: Judi Tymec
Location: Genoa, IL, USA
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About Me: I am a wife, mother, and EMT, and have worked or volunteered in many areas.