Dirty muddy girl childrenOne of my “besties” came to New York City for a visit. My hubby and I spent a couple of hours playing in the grassy fields at Central Park with her three little boys ages three through seven.

We LOVE her kids, and kids in general. They are free and have the most awesome never-ending energy. I wish I could bottle it and sell it to people!

After swinging on the swings and running around with the little guys, my big guy , Pablo, jumped onto the pull-up bars and did a few reps. He likes doing pull-ups at the park. I’m not a fan of doing pull-ups myself. I much prefer watching and cheering him on, “Go honey! Woo hoo. Ten more!”

As we were getting ready to leave the park the little guys wanted some ice-cream. What mini-munchkin doesn’t want some ice-cream after a long hard day of playing in the park?

We stopped at one of the many food vendors conveniently planted amongst the trees, and my friend purchased a chocolate chip cookie ice-cream sandwich.

Total yumminess was about to happen! The three kids locked their eyes on the prize. Who was going to be the lucky one to get the first bite?

Like a good mom, she wanted to split it evenly between the kids so there would be no bickering. She attempted to break the ice-cream cookie sandwich into smaller parts, but it proved a much more arduous task then she anticipated. It was frozen solid! She struggled for a few minutes longer and then, completely frustrated, handed the entire thing to the littlest guy and said, “Here! C’mon… let’s just go.”

“Awwhhhh,” I said, “What about the other two guys?”

“We’ll get something for them later,” she said.

Pablo, with his manly muscles jumped in to save the day. He said, “Here… let me try.” He took the frozen disc from the littlest guy and attempted to break it in half. With all of his pull-up muscles strength, he too, struggled with the ice-cream sandwich.

That was one tough cookie!

Pablo handed the unbreakable mini-glacier back to the littlest guy.

As that cutie-pie was about to sink his teeth into the long-awaited chocolate chip ice-cream sandwich, my friend’s eyes grew wide!

She panicked and reached for it, “No, no, no, no, no, no… give me that thing!” She quickly grabbed the ice-cream and tossed it into the garbage.

“What the heck?” I said. “What on earth did you do that for?”

She shook her head side to side and said, “I can’t. I’m a germaphobe. I get crazy about stuff like that.”

I started to giggle, “Oh lord have mercy!”

She continued, “Pablo was pushing them on the swings and then his hands were on the pull up bar and he was in the grass, too… “ She scrunched her face into a wrinkly ball and continued, “Who knows what kind of germs were on his hands from all of that. Ugh! I just can’t.”

I continued giggling.

She said, “I know, I know, it just makes me CRAZY! All those germs!”

We had a good laugh about her neurosis.

But, the truth is, it’s not uncommon. Most of us are deathly afraid of germs and bacteria. We are an entire society with products that help us eradicate any germs anywhere at any time: anti-bacterial soaps, toothpaste, detergents and deodorants, plus antibiotics to kill off any bacteria that may be living inside our bodily systems.

Unfortunately, our overly “clean” behavior actually sets us up for weaker immunity and more problems in the long run. Our unprecedented fear of bacteria may be one of the main reasons why allergies have sharply increased in the last few decades.[1]

I remember when I was a young pup, I rolled around in the dirt and played with my friends in the park, using all of the available swings, monkey bars and other fun stuff, without fear of “catching” anything.

And, then… the ice-cream man showed up. Yay!!

With our dirty little fingers we would hold the sugar cone and the ice-cream would melt and drip all over our hands and face. Not only that, but we all shared the frozen treats between us because we had different flavors. Some kids had vanilla or chocolate, other kids had multicolored rocket pops, and some had watermelon Italian ices. We all wanted to taste what the other kid had. It was a germ-fest for sure!

By the time we got home from a long day at the park we looked like Pig-pen from the Charlie Brown comic strip.

If we were extra dirty, mom would tell us to go up and take a shower. If we were moderately dirty she would tell us to wash our hands and face with soap and water.

As, it turns out, plain old soap and water is far more effective at preventing infections than using antibacterials, and it’s much safer, too.[2] The US FDA acknowledged this in 2010 and yet all of those anti-bacterials are still on the market reeking havoc on our immune systems.

Being clean is one thing, being ultra sanitized with anti-bacterial agents is another thing altogether.

We need germs and bacteria and couldn’t possibly live without them. Those little microscopic entities can help strengthen immunity.

As a matter of fact, it was common practice among tribal people that after a baby was born it was passed around to the various members of the tribe. Each person that child came into contact with had something to share: a welcoming smile, love and adoration, and some good old-fashioned germs.

Some germs and bacteria are more beneficial than others, of course. And, I’ll cover that info in a future blog about Lyme Disease.

Until then, I think we need to be less concerned with becoming squeaky clean, and instead focus on living life again without fear of getting a little dirty.

So… play in the dirt, split an ice-cream sandwich with someone, and pass the baby around for gosh sakes. It’s good for your immunity and good for your community as well.


[1] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/01/warning–antibacterial-soap-linked-to-altered-hormones-and-antibiotic-resistance.aspx

[2] http://www.nrdc.org/media/2010/100408.asp