If you’re a germaphobe or suffer from mysophobia, you may want to stop reading right here. Mysophobia is the scientific term for a fear of germs.
I’m not a scientist, but there are a lot of them that share my sentiment that coating yourself, your car, your kids or your pets with some kind of anti-bacterial, germ-killing substance is not a good idea.
I know there are folks who get seriously ill when exposed to certain things, but I’m convinced part of the problem is that somewhere along the line we didn’t develop an immunity to some stuff. This is due, in part, to being a bit overprotective. It may not be true in all cases, but some of our allergies are a creation of our own environment.
I grew up in a house without air conditioning. When I moved off on my own, I became quite fond of that cool air in the summer. I never had to take a pill for allergies, hay fever or whatever you want to call it until I started living in air conditioning.
We used to play outdoors. As boys, we would sometimes tussle and wrestle in the grass. If you didn’t have a shirt on, you might get a little rash or irritation from exposure to the grass.
Guess what? Next morning it was gone and we went right back out there. We got bitten by mosquitoes, stung by bees and acquired a few ticks and chiggers along the way.
If a bee stung you, you generally found somebody who smoked or chewed tobacco and rubbed it on the stung place. If you found out you had a tick, you generally found someone who smoked and touched the tick with the lit cigarette. The tick would turn loose immediately.
Chiggers were suffocated by painting the bite with fingernail polish.
No children were harmed in the process.
Jack Gilbert and Rob Knight, who are both scientists with PhDs, wrote, “Dirt is Good,” one of several books on this subject.
We used to go down to the creek behind my grandfather’s house. If you ingested a little mud and creek water, it wasn’t going to kill you.
Getting a little Georgia clay between your toes is probably good for you.
Speaking of clay, a white clay found in middle Georgia is kaolin. It has a number of uses, including making fine china. But it is also was the key ingredient in Kaopectate, a medicine most often used to treat diarrhea. The U.S. version now contains something else, but the version sold in Canada still has a kaolin-based product.
The whole notion of exposure to dirt, or even eating a little, has been around for a long time.
Not that you want to make a habit of this, but dropping a food item on the floor or a picnic table and then eating it is not going to kill you. If you’re in some really nasty place, think twice. But if it’s your house, use the five-second rule -- that is, pick it up within five seconds, should be fine.
As for all of that alcohol-based hand sanitizer, the gurus say stay away. You might want to use it if you’re in some place that has no running water. But the best choice for cleaning your hands is warm soapy water and good agitation by rubbing your hands together.
Good luck and be well.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear Sundays.