Since flu season is upon us, I had re-linked to a post I wrote about getting out of a public restroom clean. That re-post garnered this response:
My god, how horrible must life be to go through it filled with such paranoia. How did our species survive for the millenia before we invent antiseptic wipes?Evidently, my advice got misconstrued as some paean to obsessive-compulsion. Well, I think it would be wise to revisit the topic but give it a broader foundation.
Remember when we were kids? We played in the dirt and mud. We rolled around on the ground with dogs (or whatever farm animals we were raising at the time). We drank from the garden hose that had been lying on the ground for months.
Strong immune systems that have been exposed to and conquered multitudes of viruses over a lifetime are not very susceptible to infection.
I spend all of my free time outside. Camping, hunting, fishing (and the various animal butchering that these activities require) are about as dirty as you can get.
Sure, I wash my hands after using the toilet, and before eating if they look dirty. I even use soap. I have never even given a thought to touching the water faucet or the door handle.
According to my employee record, my last sick day was sometime in 2003.
A person with a healthy immune system won't get sick. Period. A healthy immune system isolates, kills, eats and then excretes viri, bad bacteria and mutant cells. All these invaders are tricky and do their best to fool the system. When the system is tired, malnourished, or otherwise stressed that's what happens.
People with strong constitutions are really people who rarely perceive stress or when a stressor is applied to them, they bounce back faster or use the stressor positively. I'm not talking about the strong-silent type who is imploding and the rest of the world sees it when he drops dead of a heart attack. I'm talking about the George Burns type who lives life fully and happily, and enjoys a good cigar now and again, too.
A healthy immune system is built by exposure to naturally occurring organisms in naturally occurring situations. One of the best things you can do for your kid is to let him catch a cold or the flu or some other virus and let him fight it without intervening with medications which short-circuit the immune process. Another way to build it is to walk barefoot. Let the kids play in the dirt, walk in the dirt, get dirty. And an excellent way to build the immune system is to get a dog or three. Animals share many bacteria with humans. Plus, their presence boosts the immune system.
So while I might be a little OCD about getting out of a public bathroom clean, please understand I'm not a general germophobe. Many public restrooms are disgusting petri dishes. The worst are hospital bathrooms where the bugs are supersonic. It is wise to be vigilant in public places while not being hysterical. Remember, stress lowers the immune system.
To stay well while traveling, for example, do this:
- Allow enough time (emotional stress)
- Drink plenty of water (you lose hydration because of recycled air--physiological stress)
- Wash hands after using the bathroom and before eating
- Watch, listen, or read positive something. (boosts immune system)
- Take a shower and a walk after a long travel day. (clean the skin and clear out the windpipes, increase circulation which washes out bugs)
- Drink more water and take water soluble vitamins like a B complex.
- Try to have a good sleep.
- Avoid shaking hands (#1 way bugs are transmitted is direct contact).
And still, wash your hands!