Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hand Sanitizer

This stuff may make sense in hospitals, but it's a waste of time and money in the real world, which is so plastered with "germs" that it's best to let nature take its course.

The very concept of "germs" was created by the advertising industry to sell products. Germs are evil little cartoon characters that only "Scrubbing Bubbles" and other cartoon heroes can deal with. The end goal here is always to sell you something, and to do that the commercial world invents new threats you never knew existed.

In reality, the only "germs" are bacteria, viruses and maybe mold spores. Mankind has been living with them since the beginning of time, and we have reached a detente: the microbes do their thing, and we develop defenses against them. By going overboard on sanitation you may end up disrupting the detente and ultimately giving the microbes the upper hand.

At best, hand sanitizers and similar products are simply ineffective. There are too many germs in the environment and too many ways for them to get to you. At worst, sanitation products may actually weaken your immune system and breed stronger germs.

Take a product that claims to kill "99% of all bacteria". Sounds good, right? Wrong! What about the 1% of bacteria that weren't killed? That's right, they multiply! Since they weren't killed by the product initially, they must have an immunity to it, so your next generation of bacteria are going to laugh the product off.

The body's best defense against disease agents is its own immune system. You keep the immune system primed by ALLOWING it access to disease agents. People who live in plastic bubbles never have a chance to develop immunities, so when disease agents inevitably get through the plastic wrap, the body has little defense.

The same concept applies to antibiotics. The inevitable effect of the overuse of antibiotics is that we have bred stronger bacteria resistant to them. That's yet another case of a "miracle" product turning into a bad thing in the long term. (In truth, there are no miracles in life, only trade-offs.)

I'm not suggesting you forgo antibiotics if you need them to stay alive and or that you you should bathe in germs, like swimming in the river Ganges. You just don't need to go overboard and try to kill ALL germs. It's probably a good idea to keep wounds clean, wash your hands after going to the bathroom and take a shower on occasion to reduce the bacterial hordes, since even the strongest immune system can be overwhelmed. But you don't need to use a hand sanitizer every time you touch a door knob or shake someone's hand.

That's just sick! You need to contact life directly, without a hundred lotions, sprays and obsessive-compulsive rituals getting in the way. Just shake hands, kiss babies, use public toilets and when you begin to stink, take a shower.

You don't want a flabby immune system, do you? Give it some exercise!