Ask the audience: Germs, love ’em or hate ’em?

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

Let me first gross you out by saying we carry around approximately 3 pounds of bacteria in our guts every day. It’s good bacteria, the kind we need. But how nasty is that? Ewww.

There’s a huge debate out there about whether we should wipe out as many germs as possible (the germophobe camp) or whether germs are a good thing. (the tin foil hat camp) Some say that by using all kinds of antibacterial stuff, we’re creating a super germ. Others say that these germs are making us sick, so let’s kill them all.

Me? I have no idea. That’s why I’m asking you, our super-smart audience to help me make my mind up.

Heather says:

I am typically in the tin foil hat camp. I do not use antibacterial soap and I try to use mild alternatives such as vinegar for most of my cleaning. I do not flip out if my kid puts something in his mouth. However, when it comes to food preparation I am very careful to follow strict sanitary guidelines.


  1. sonia on June 10, 2007 at 7:49 am

    I’m a germaphobe. I can’t help it. Touching shopping carts, having to use someone elses pen…shivers. Freaks me out.

  2. Hilary on June 9, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Ha – I am the poster child for the tinfoil hat group!

    One of my prior jobs was as a researcher for a natural medical company, which included lots of research on good bacteria. The science is pretty much decided. Good bacteria is not just good, but necessary for life, especially those pounds of bacteria in our guts (and in our mouths, and on our skin, etc.) Overuse of antibacterials is bad, including the ever present triclosan. Overuse of antibacterial soaps and other products does not decrease infections, it increases them and makes them harder to treat as bacteria mutate into stronger. more resistant strains.

    As for antibiotics, the same applies and worse. 2/3 of all antibiotics used in the US are used in livestock, so even if we are not mistakenly taking them for every viral sniffle and sore throat, chances are most of us are still taking antibiotics every day through our food. And yes, this overuse of antibiotics, both by doctors and patients and by livestock farmers, has again increased our risk of disease, not decreased it.

  3. bramble on June 9, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    i’m pretty much in heathers camp. i figure for the most part what doesnt kill us only makes us stronger, but, having had a few bouts of food poisoning here and there, i’m also pretty careful with food prep.

  4. Cindy on June 9, 2007 at 7:47 am

    I use antibacterial hand soap only because I haven’t really seen anything that isn’t anymore. All I was looking for was soap to wash my hands with. I wouldn’t pick up a slug because they’re slimy, and I don’t like the way they feel–not because they might have germs. I have no kids, but when watching my nephew, I let him play in the dirt. I generally try to keep him from sticking things in his mouth because the things you find on a sidewalk in the city are generally much different than the things you would find in the country in the woods in your back yard. He doesn’t care if the dog licks him. He’s 2, and he doesn’t get sick very often. My sister the RN doesn’t panic when he does any of the stuff that little boys typically like to do when it comes to getting dirty.

    I think our bodies can build the best defenses against a lot of things if we just let them.

  5. Blogarita on June 8, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    I agree with the others. I suspect that ridding our environment of too many germs doesn’t let us build up resistance to them.

  6. starryfish on June 8, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    I’m with the other ladies… I’m not a germophobe by any means, and the family and I are pretty healthy. I clean my house with vinegar and baking soda, and am pretty confident that does a good job of keeping things “clean”.

  7. CharmingDriver on June 8, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I’m all about being clean and sanitary when cooking or preparing food but I want to drive stakes into the foreheads of folks walking around constantly soaking their hands in ”antibacterial” gel and sanitizing the world.

    So says the girl with MRSA, a PICC line and IV antibiotics thanks to the existence of ”superbugs”.

    Get a lil dirty, y’all. It won’t kill you and it might even help someone else sidestep serious disease and illness.


  8. zoom on June 8, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I’m pro-germ. Since you can’t eliminate them (and even if you could, it would be a terrible thing in terms of unintended consequences), and there are no advantages to being phobic about them, you might as well just adopt a live-and-let-live approach.

  9. Rachel on June 8, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Based on absolutely no research, I think some germs (except the food poisoning kind) are fine. I only use the antimicrobial hand gel during flu season at work (medical center). But I just willingly picked up a slug last night, and am convinced it’s a *15* second rule (not 5), so maybe you shouldn’t go by me.

  10. Teresa on June 8, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Well, there are germs and there are germs. People should practice basic hygeine and good kitchen sanitation, but just getting dirty and/or touching the cart at Wal-mart actually builds your immunity.

    I only wear my tinfoil hat on special occasions 🙂

  11. Sarah on June 8, 2007 at 11:38 am

    I think that growing up in a less germ-intolerant time helped me to have few health issues throughout my life… I went to school with the kids who always had asthma attacks and infections and got sick at the drop of a (tin-foil) hat. But I am of hardy stock, and I think it’s because my parents aren’t germophobes and let me play in the dirt.