Microbes – A Love/Hate Relationship


Today, I was seeing patients in clinic, talking with a Mom about our treatment plan.  Her little girl, a beautiful child I might add, was crawling marine-style under the chair upon which her Mom was sitting.  The mother bent down, and pulled the child out from under the chair, and admonished her by saying, “Get up from the floor.   It’s dirty!”  The Mom then pulled out a bottle of antibacterial hand-sanitizer from her enormous hand-bag covered in logos, cleansed her little girl’s hands with the solution, straightened the massive flower, head-band thing on her daughter’s head, and then proceeded to give her daughter her I-phone.

Now let’s think about this for just a minute.  The mother has completely flipped out over the fact her child is climbing around on the floor, which is mopped nightly and buffed once a week.  In all actuality, the floor is probably cleaner than the floors in most homes.  But then she gives the child her I-phone, which is probably teeming with microorganisms, awful microbes, microbes you might find on a toilet seat.  Check this site out on the top 10 microorganisms found on a cell phone.

I have been thinking about this all day, which is convenient since I needed to come up with a post for ‘M’.  This brought me back to something I witnessed while I was at Whole Foods the other day.  A tennis Mom (dressed as though she had just come off the tennis courts), spent several long minutes meticulously cleaning the shopping cart she had chosen, with one of those anti-bacterial wipes that Whole Foods so graciously provides.  The next time I saw her, she was in the vegetable section, carefully selecting Portobello mushrooms (which is a fungus).  Not that I am stalking the woman, but I see her again, selecting yogurt (full of active cultures of Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus – bacteria).  Finally, I pass by her as she is scanning the refrigerated section where the probiotics are kept, she is busily deciding on which one to purchase.  Probiotics are capsules full of millions of bacteria (Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium). 

Does any of this make any sense to you?

Has our society just gone bonkers?   One of the common ingredients in antibacterial agents, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and other common household items in Triclosan.  There is some concern that we are using so much Triclosan it is showing up in breast milk, in the urine of children and there is some thought it might be linked to liver issues.  We are destroying not only bad microbes, but all the essential microbes that exist on and in our bodies.  These microbes maintain a balance in our bodies and we are throwing that balance completely out of whack and in the process, potentially destroying our livers.

There is some thought the alarming increase in food allergies may be linked to the use of antimicrobial agents, because of the disruption in the fragile balance of bacteria that live within our bodies.  Maybe we should go back to the old standby – soap (not antibacterial) and water.  Maybe we should let our children get dirty and not be continually trying to make their lives devoid of microbes, because we may actually be doing them more harm than good.

As a kid, my Mum let me slosh around in mud puddles, and we would spend Spring afternoons collecting water from the creeks and ponds, in order to catch tadpoles.  I spent hours as a kid laying in the dirt, playing marbles, making mud pies. I was allowed to wallow in the joys of being a kid and getting dirty (and boy, was I good at getting dirty).  We all did that, me and my buddies.  And we were healthy and happy.

Thanks to Google.com for image of microbes.

21 replies »

  1. Triclosan is awful, and should be banned. Even me, someone with immunosuppression, refuses to use products containing it. It is helping lead to resistant bacteria.

  2. I’ve never heard of triclosan…to google I will go.

    I’m guilty of breaking out the wipes, I’ll admit. I also stay away from healthy things like probiotics and mushrooms, so I don’t feel as bad 😉

    If that’s a first time mom, I get it…i disinfected the toys at my son’s pediatrician’s office before letting him touch them. The nurse looked at me like I was crazy. With the second kid, I’ve relaxed to the point that my brain doesn’t go in freak out mode if someone touches her or if I don’t have the massive grocery cart seat cover to put her in.

    • What is it they say about Moms – When the first kid drops their pacifier, you pick it up, sterilize it, or just get a new one. With the second kid, when they drop their pacifier on the floor, you pick it up and lick it off and pop it back in the child’s mouth. With the third child, when the pacifier is dropped, you pick it up, give it to the dog to lick off and pop it back in your child’s mouth.
      PS. I agree with the toys at the Pediatricians office, there is no way to keep them clean, that’s why you rarely see toys anymore in a doctors waiting room.

      • Omg lick off the pacifier? I’d die haha (yes, I am a bit of a germaphobe, to the point that I won’t touch salt shakers and the such in restaurants).

      • Oooo, I never thought of the salt shakers. Oh thanks!!! How about this – blowing out birthday candles is probably the grossest thing ever. People spewing their respiratory droplets all over the top a cake is really kind of disgusting. I once gave my friend a hairdryer to use so he could blow the candles out – he was really offended.

      • And the menu, and the door handles, ketchup bottle… Bwahaha, you did not! Right? I think the same thing when I watch LM blow his out–especially the time we brought the trick candles. Ew. I just need my own separate cake.

  3. It seems certain that since we no longer let children play in the way we did as children ( apologies, you might be years younger ) and getting dirty. Without dirt we have no way to develop a resistance to the germs in it. Then we wipe away the good and bad together leaving ourselves and children open to infections we would normally be protected against.

    • Exactly – things have completely gotten out of hand. A little bit of soap and water is still the best way to get clean, and your hands feel clean. When you use all those gels – are you not just smearing the dirt about? My hands never feel really clean when I use the gel.

  4. Can’t bear the obsession with anti-bacterial this that and the other. Never bought/used any yet. There was a report some years ago when I was still in the health service that said kids (and adults) were better exposed to some muck instead of living in a super-hygienic bubble. I’ve obviously taken that to heart as my flat is currently filthy. When I was in hospital last year, our room must have been washed two or three times a day …

  5. We don’t do the antibacterial thing and try to avoid using toxic chemicals in our home. Vinegar rules. We don’t seem to get any more sick than the families we know who go full bleach and antibacterial everything. It sounds like some of the long term effects for humans and the environment are becoming apparent, though.

    • Absolutely!!! I think we may be doing a great disservice to our bodies. We have to use that antibacterial gel at work (we are monitored on our use) and I figure I am applying that gel to my hands about 30 times a day. That’s scary!!!

  6. My kids vs. my niece-has allergies and severely sensitive skin and a picky as hell eater (niece). My sister is a severe germ-a-phobe. Me-let the kids get dirty and play, eat stuff off the floor-within the 5 second rule, I cleaned my sons binky by popping it in my mouth when it fell to the floor. I took both of my kids to my places of employment when they were mere weeks old-long term health care facilities. My kids rarely miss school with colds, no serious food or skin allergies-though the are both allergic to the cillan family of antibiotics and both are redheads, and are overall healthy. My niece, God love her, can hardly play with any kids and it constantly bombarded with antibacterial this, that and the other. I love my sister, but I want to smack her in the head sometimes…sheesh

    • And redheads are known for their skin sensitivities. I let my kids wallow around in the mud, I was right there with them. Hopefully this phobia towards microbes is cyclical and we will start relaxing about all of this.

      • I use Tide Free and Clear laundry detergent and Downy with febreeze. My dad has more sensitive skin than my kids. I hope it is..but you know how the media and medical “evidence” blows it WAAAAAAY outta proportion. I get dirty w/my kids too. Today I’ve been playing mechanic!

      • We use Arm & Hammer laundry detergent, Downy – my kids have fair skin and they seem to do well with it. We have to watch out for sunscreens, some seem to set their skin off!!!!

      • Yeah. My kids can get trashed out by some sunscreens. Copper tone for Monkey and something with at least a 30 for NSLM. I’m good with Hawaiian tropic. Isn’t it weird funny how kids all need different things for their skin? It’s baffling

      • Try Neutrogena sunscreen – I think like a SPF 50 (with Helioplex) – works so well, even on redheaded skin. Keeps them super white ALL day long!!!

      • I definitely will try that this summer for my daughter! My son has gotten more tan each year, but my poor daughter just burns no matter what, God love her little self!

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