Pithy, Witty & Wise

Hi Readers! I thought the analogy about overreacting, below, was  great, which is why I’m posting it here. I have also long sensed a connection between overprotecting our kids from “strangers” and overprotecting their bodies from “strangers” — i.e., germs. Either way, kids get one single, isolating  message: “Anything beyond your immediate circle (of bacteria or people) is bad. Resist all attempts at connecting.” Feh. –– L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Loved this comment [on the Build-An-Adorable Choking Hazard post] :  “Which is why I am always going crazy.” Exactly. As if parenthood isn’t demanding enough, now we have to consider every possible bad thing that might potentially happen and prepare for it as if it is Armageddon itself. No thanks.

By way of metaphor, scientists now believe that part of the reason for the giant surge in food allergies  is a severe lack of dirt eating by today’s children. (Seriously.) Kids aren’t getting enough exposure to germs and dirt and so their bodies aren’t learning how to tell the difference between an actual threat and something normally benign.

In a similar sense we are constantly bombarded with so many “fear this” messages that we are all losing our ability to tell the difference between a real threat (flame throwers in the hands of toddlers) and benign cuddly things.

So, I will continue to make my kids play in the dirt, avoid hand sanitizer, go to the park without me, play with toys clearly labeled as approved only for children over the age of 99, and *gasp* even talk to strangers.

I will prepare my children to live in the world and to be able to make good choices and tell the difference between true dangers and legal warnings.
I will do this because someone needs to ensure that “Idiocracy” is not looked on as a documentary by future generations. — Think Banned Thoughts

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153 Responses to Pithy, Witty & Wise

  1. Obi-Wandreas January 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    The other issue with the hand sanitizer is that it “kills 99% of all germs,” thus leaving a fertile breeding ground for the ones that it can’t kill. So when the superbugs start becoming a real problem, can we charge the hand sanitizer users with genocide?

  2. TaraK January 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Here’s what drives me nutty about the germophobe issue. Yes, they kill 99.9% of germs (creating the superbugs Obi has mentioned). But if you read the labels of the hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes the surface has to remain wet for a certain amount of time. For the wipes it is TEN MINUTES! The stuff evaporates LONG before the 10 minutes are up!

  3. Nanci January 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    I will not let my kids use hand sanitizer. They have it in every class at school and require the kids to use it before entering the cafeteria. My kids have learned how to make it look like they’re using it without really getting any! My kids chewed on cart handles when they were little, picked up binkies off the ground and put them right back in their mouths, sucked their thumbs after long days out. They have never had strep throat, the flu, an ear infection, they are extremely healthy and have no allergies. My friends who constantly keep their kids environments clean, their kids have more problems than mine.

  4. Lollipoplover January 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    DIrt is hard to find these days! Kids don’t usually see it exiting their SUV’s to the entrance (escorted of course) of their schools. And forget about playgrounds, it’s usually the spongy safety surfaces…

    Someone should market Dirt like they do these sanitizers as the new anti-allergy fix. Put it in a happy meal, with instructions to “go outside, add water, form into a mud pie.”

  5. Mrs. A. January 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    My kid ate dirt (gravel specifically) and ended up with a severe peanut/sesame allergy. I thought cart handle covers were silly and overcautious and my other kid ended up with cold sores. Talk about the short end of the stick! My own experince aside, I agree that we are spending far too much time looking out for perceived dangers. I’m happy to have found free-range…I used to joke my parenting style was benign neglect. Compared to many parents I was acquainted with, it was true!

    Love the handle ‘Think banned thoughts’. Here’s to raising free-range, critically thinking kids.

  6. Gilraen January 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    My mother, a microbiologist, was a firm believer in tickling the immune system. She encouraged us from a young age to play outdoors to get that immune system going, despite our allergies.
    I am convinced that by this attitude she allowed us to beat our allergy and gave us a strong immune system.

  7. SKL January 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Actually, it seems to me that the point of all the safety rules imposed on manufacturers, etc. is to relieve parents of the duty to “think of everything that could happen.”

    I see nothing wrong with parents thinking of everything that could happen, weighing risks, and deciding which risks are acceptable / worth it.

    I let my kids do a lot of stuff that is not “advised” nowadays. But when I do so, it’s not because I didn’t think of the possible issues. That’s my job. I don’t need or want some third party to take that over from me. Like the “rule” (thankfully unenforced) that would have required my 5yo swimmer to wear a life vest at the waterpark because she’s short, undermining our goal to improve her swimming skills. I would rather think of all the things that can happen and consciously choose accordingly.

  8. thecoffeegod January 12, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Immune systems, like all other bodily functions, need exercising. Use it or lose it.

  9. Sarah January 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    At the fruit market yesterday, I let my son take small bits of ice chips from by the veggies while I filled my bags. No fewer than 3 people told him – not me, him – not to do it. Each time he said – “But my mother said I could.” The first time I thought people were thinking it was stealing, and I said something (rather defensively) about how they’re not selling the ice. The person responded about how dirty it was (really??). The next two people told my son directly that the ice was “filthy”. I suppose I shouldn’t let him eat the snow that is scheduled to fall later today, either…
    Whatever happened to “a pound of dirt a year”?

  10. TaraK January 12, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    On another topic, I was at the library the other day. On a shelf of books for parents to read while their kids are dinking around in the children’s section was the book “The Safe Baby”. 271 pages of “worst first” thinking with examples of how to safely ride a bike with a baby in a bike seat, baby proofing the heck out of your house and how to look for danger around every corner. I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote, “google Free Range Kids, world proof your child, don’t child proof your world!” and tucked it in the book. :) Hehehe

  11. Kelly January 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    We have 2 cats, a bird and a dog. Our kid eats plenty of dirt. Mostly in the form of animal hair though :)

  12. keobooks January 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    When I take my toddler aged daughter to some activities at the library, the kids freak out if they get their hands dirty. Many of them aren’t even two yet and they refuse to touch the finger paints because they don’t like the sensation of slime on their hands.

    The librarian said that they have designed special activities to encourage kids to get their hands dirty because many children today are deprived of having tactile experiences. They are actively discouraged from exploring and touching things by parents who don’t want to clean up the mess or who are obsessed with germs.

    It turns out that kids actually need these tactile experiences for good brain development. Kids who are deprived of tactile stimulation frequently have some troubles that look similar to certain learning and cognitive disabilities. Some even develop anxieties about germs and touching things to a point where they panic when they get their hands wet or dirty. Who wants a toddler with an anxiety disorder?

    Dirt is good for kids It’s good for their physical, cognitive and emotional immune system.

  13. Cheryl W January 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    My kids are the healthiest kids on the block, I guess. We don’t use hand sanitizer. I let them play in dirt, both now and when they were little. They ate sand at the beach, dirt from the garden and the park. I do have them wash their hands before meals, but my youngest thinks that means swiping them under the water and wiping them on the towel that the other two are about to use. We have animals, fur and dander. I let them play in poison ivy full of ticks when they visit Grandma. (If they didn’t, they wouldn’t get to play outside.) They wash well, and get checked for ticks before bed.

    But really, my kids tend to get every cold that comes along. So did I as a kid (and still do.) As a kid, both my mother and I almost failed a grade due to being sick too much. My two boys have both had incidents of viral induced asthma. They all seem to get sick about as much as I did. It is not the dirt so much as it is the other people who take their kids out or send them to school when they are sick. We tickle our immune system with a flu shot each year – much better than the scary asthma attacks that only occur in the middle of the night.

    And yes, I ALWAYS used those wipes on the cart when we went to the drug store. I figured that the people where there mostly for the same reason I was – to get stuff because they were sick. Now my kids are older I can leave them in the car – when little the cart was used to contain them.

    But you probably wouldn’t notice me overall. Except for an askance look from a teacher when I was helping the class. My “crime” was telling my son (who has the most asthma attacks) that he could not blow up the balloon on the “race” car because another girl (sick) had blown it up. Teacher tried to say it was fine, but I really hate being up in the middle of the night with a kid who is panicking because he can’t breath and wondering if I should be going to the ER.

    So, good to everyone who thinks the dirt is keeping their kids from getting sick. Me, I know the immune system that is inherited plays a large part too.

  14. Dean January 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    I agree with Cheryl (” I know the immune system that is inherited plays a large part too”) and would also add that it may be that our “cleaner” world is leading to a general rise in allergies but it’s far too facile to suggest a one-to-one correlation. My son has a shellfish allergy and my daughter a penicillin one. I don’t think these have anything to do with anything other than they were born with a tidge bit of funniness in their immune systems that react to these specific ingredients.

    The hand santizers (which we use moderately when soap/water not available), overuse of antibiotics, “don’t play in the dirt” mentality may be increasing issues in general in our population, and it may impact specific kids (I’ve read that having cats or dogs decreases chance of allergy – although is that also because allergies have an inherited component and parents with the allergies aren’t going to have cats/dogs??), but it’s not a one-to-one kind of correlation.

  15. thinkbannedthoughts January 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    @Nanci – I finally sent my kids to school with a note saying that they were not allowed to use hand sanitizer. Partially because I also have a thumb sucker and I do not want that stuff going in her mouth. She’s long had germs/dirt and goodness knows what else. Really, it’s hard to be germaphobic with a thumbsucker, we would have had to remove her thumbs all together to keep her from getting “contaminated”!

    @ Lollipoplover – Brilliant idea, we should do it! I mean, even pottery classes are tame now, you just go to a studio and paint perfectly made and formed plates and bowls, kids don’t even get to mush their fingers into the clay themselves. I think this afternoon I’ll make a “Bring Back Dirt” sign for my front yard…

    @Mrs. A. As you’ve noted, there’s no perfect way to raise a healthy child. But I love your attitude of “benign neglect”, at least your kids will come out self-sufficient and able to navigate the world.

    @Thecoffeegod – Amen!

    @TaraK – LOVE IT! Highly inspired!

    @Cheryl W. – Yes, you have to accept, and play to, the genetic hand that you are dealt. Some kids are born with a low dirt tolerance. But most (Not all) can build up a resistance over time and can use that to build resistance to other foreign substances as well. As with Mrs. A., There is no perfect, right or wrong way to raise a kid. We are all here just trying to do the best we can with what we have available. The Free-Range way isn’t meant to make anyone feel bad, it’s meant to show us different ways of looking at things, thinking about things and doing things to help us all breathe a little easier, literally and metaphorically.

  16. squishymama January 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

    We have a saying in our family, given to us by my episcopal deacon of a mother-in-law:

    God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt.

    It’s really helped me relax when they decide to eat the food that been dropped on the floor.

  17. Renee Anne January 13, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    I let my kid chew on grocery cart handles and his dirty little hands, share toys with the dog, pick things up off the ground and stick them in his mouth, share spoons with me, play with kids that might be sick, and almost anyone that wants to touch him and play with him is allowed to do so.

    It’s true, he’s gotten sick a few times in his 14 months on Earth (pneumonia at 6 months and a couple of ear infections, plenty of snotty noses, etc.) but he’s also been able to eat anything we’ve given him, even if it’s been tainted by one of those potential food allergens like seafood and peanut butter. Nothing. Just him wanting more food :)

    I think a lot of the food allergies are a load of hooey from parents that didn’t bother to let their kids get sick and dirty.

  18. gap.runner January 13, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    Hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps are only good against bacteria. Most of them don’t kill viruses, which cause illnesses such as influenza. Hand washing with plain old soap and water is actually the best way to prevent the spread of disease.

    Here in Germany kids get lots of fresh air and also get dirty. It is a common sight in all seasons to see parents pushing their babies in prams outside. In kindergarten (preschool) kids spend most of their time playing outside. Even older kids are outside any chance they get. I don’t know of any kids here with food allergies. School kids are encouraged to bring treats, either home-baked or store-bought, to class on their birthdays. There is no scrutinizing the label or asking what’s in a cake that a kid’s mom baked. There are also no lists of “forbidden foods.”

    One more thing…When I was about 18 or 19 I babysat regularly for a neighbor in Los Angeles who had twins. This was back in the late ’70s. When the babies were about 2 or 3 months old, I took them outside for some fresh air because it was a nice summer day. The mother came home while we were outside. The way she reacted, one would have thought that I let her babies loose in a minefield or dunked them in a Porta-Potty that hadn’t been cleaned in a year. She told me never to take the babies outside again because there were flies, other insects, and dirt which spread disease. The babies were lying in their stroller because they were too young to crawl on the ground. My mother always took me outside as a baby and I thought it was a normal thing to give babies fresh air. I babysat those twins until they were almost 2. Even after they learned to walk, they were not even allowed to go in their back yard because their mother was such a germophobe.

  19. BMS January 13, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    @ Cheryl W: I had to laugh reading your last entry. What is it about the hour of 2am that triggers asthma attacks?? I swear, my kid could have just a cold from 6 am until midnight but then magically, 2am, it’s a freaking ER trip. How do the lungs know what time it is?

    Fortunately, my son is actually starting to grow out of the viral induced asthma. We used to be good for at least 2-3 ER visits per year. We got through all of last year with nary a one (he’s 11). So there is hope!

  20. Jason "Germ Guy" Tetro January 13, 2012 at 12:25 am #


    Hand sanitizers are effective against bacteria and enveloped viruses such as the influenza virus, regardless of their composition.

    If the sanitizer contains between 62 and 80% ethanol, then it will be effective against non-enveloped viruses, such as the common cold or the norovirus. I published this last year: http://bit.ly/AgvvYq

    If there is no ethanol in the hand sanitizers, they are not particularly useful against non-enveloped viruses.

    I recommend a hand sanitizer containing between 62 and 70 percent ethanol and that it be used as a supplement to handwashing OR in cases when there is a risk for pathogen infection and there are no handwashing facilities available. To be a little more imaginative, an outdoor concert where the port-a-potties are overwhelmed and the wash basins are empty. That’s a perfect place for hand sanitizers.

    I hope this helps.

  21. Kaetlyn Wilcox January 13, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    My 15 month old loves to sweep the kitchen floor. Sometimes he licks the dust broom. Lesson in helping out around the house: check. Immuno-booster: check.

  22. gap.runner January 13, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    I personally can’t use hand sanitizers because they dry out my hands and give me a rash. When they had the swine flu scare a couple of years ago, hand sanitizer dispensers were installed at my work and my boss wanted all of us to use them. But I got out of using the hand sanitizer because of my sensitive skin. The ironic thing is that since the hand sanitizer dispensers were installed at my work, the employees who use them the most are the ones who take the most sick days. I used the stuff once and I’m the person in my office who takes the least number of sick days a year. I don’t think that my son has ever used a hand sanitizer. If someone brought a tube of hand sanitizer to school here, the other kids and teachers would think that he has a psychiatric disorder.

    There are good uses for hand sanitizers. If doctors don’t have easy access to a sink, using a hand sanitizer between patients is a good alternative. Surgeons also use special antibacterial soap when they scrub before an operation. But I’ll stick with soap and water for keeping my hands clean.

  23. RKT January 13, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    My husband is a pediatrician with a strong interest in having our kids eat dirt–he’s an endocrinologist and believes that autoimmune issues can stem from our own systems not getting used to fighting smaller things and then attacking our own bodies. He had given a lecture to the nurses at the hospital about why dirt is good and said that he let our daughter (then 2) eat dirt.

    While I was in labor with daughter #2, I had not one but TWO nurses ask me if it was true I let our daughter eat dirt (it is, I’m actually more free range than he is–and he’s much more free range than when we met). I was like “Yes, now can I labor please.”

    But it gets better.

    6 months later I discover that I was known on the maternity floor as “The Mud Doctor’s Wife.”

    And I think the analogy is a good one.

  24. Jason "Germ Guy" Tetro January 13, 2012 at 1:11 am #


    Your assessment of the impact of the santizers on your skin is something we hear all the time from nurses and other people who are required to use them on a regular basis. While in your case, it’s perfectly fine to stay away from them, in healthcare settings, it’s a necessity and thus other avenues must be taken to avoid the dermatitis.

    The idea of using a hand sanitizer BETWEEN patients however is not an activity that I would encourage. Hand sanitizers are not a solution but rather a supplement/complement and should be used only in situations where handwashing (or proper glove use) us impossible.

    On the other hand, for an adult to clean up a sniffly nose, however, those hand sanitizers are just perfect to prevent the adult or anyone else he/she touches to get sick.

  25. kiesha January 13, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    I have to imagine that when people hear, “I let my kid eat dirt”, that they’re picturing a kid in the backyard, stuffing handfuls of potting soil down their throats, not the occasional gumming of a grocery cart handle or lick of a toy shovel or even tasting a mud pie.

    Growing up, I always heard, “You have to eat a speck of dirt before you die.”

  26. Cheryl W January 13, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    Kiesha, “I have to imagine that when people hear, “I let my kid eat dirt”, that they’re picturing a kid in the backyard, stuffing handfuls of potting soil down their throats,”

    All of my kids, and my younger brother and sister, did the handfulls of dirt and sand, at least once! So for us, yep, it is really accurate.

    As well as at least one time when my daughter was naked on the floor and ate some poop (6 months or so?) The thought going through my head was “Wow, what is this stuff? Hmm, let me taste it….” My husband had a fit but I laughed. After all, it just came out of her!

  27. Uly January 13, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    I’ve read that having cats or dogs decreases chance of allergy – although is that also because allergies have an inherited component and parents with the allergies aren’t going to have cats/dogs?

    Just to be anecdotal here, my older niece (my sister’s child) has asthma. Her dad is allergic to cats, and looking back at family history it seems very likely that my mother and I both were asthmatic as children. (Why this was never caught, I don’t know, but I remember missing what added up to weeks of school every year because I couldn’t breathe.)

    This summer, she brought a cat into the house. I like cats. Haven’t had any for a while, but I do like them, and it was clear to me that this cat was pregnant. (She wasn’t bulging yet, but a word to the wise: If you can see your cat’s nipples, they’re enlarged and pink? Then she’s probably pregnant, two or three weeks along.)

    So, because I’m a soft touch, I fed the cat and her kittens when they came along.

    This summer really was miserable, hot and humid. Poor Ana had to go to urgent care at least once for her asthma. But after school started and the kittens came, she’s been FINE. She’s even stopped taking her inhaler most days, and because she’s been fine we haven’t been chasing after her making her do it. NO. PROBLEMS.

    This time last year, she was wheezing up a storm. This year? Nothing.

    I don’t know if it’s the cat and five kittens, but it seems to me like she got worse right after the cat arrived and then, within two months, improved an insane, unbelievable degree.

  28. Jason "Germ Guy" Tetro January 13, 2012 at 1:53 am #


    What your niece experienced is an area of human immunology we are only now learning to any extent. In general, we call it epigenetics but essentially, it’s about how we can work with the environment to change the way we respond to it.

    In the public I call this branch of knowledge “corporeal ecology” as it pertains to “humans in the environment and the environment in humans”. It’s catching on a little with some in Canada and I think might be a direction to follow to increase awareness of our place in the world.

    Essentially, the corporeal ecology of your niece changed and as a result, her immune functions also changed. How that occurred at the genetic and protein level may still be a mystery but it shows yet again that our bodies are continually dynamic and that we can change how we act and react.

    At the end of the day, however, I’m just glad that she is better.

  29. Jason "Germ Guy" Tetro January 13, 2012 at 1:59 am #

    I just realized that my first comment wasn’t published…so, if I may go Back to the Future:

    Hi there,

    I’m Jason Tetro, the “Germ Guy.” I’m an international expert on germs and promote both health and hygiene in the media, on television, scientific articles and books.

    I was sent this blog post by a few concerned individuals who are happy about the spirit of the blog but were discontent with the science, especially the 99.9% discussion.

    For more on what 99.9% really means, I invite you to check out the real answer in a post I wrote a few years back. (the link is in the previous comment). This was in response to a report I helped develop with The National here in Canada (another link that is in the previous comment).

    More recently, a paper has come out that discussed the idea of the need for exposure to germs in order to have a healthy immune system. I’ve written about it on my germguy blog. What is truly interesting is that exposure to germs and environmental factors PRIOR TO BIRTH is probably more important than the exposures that happen after birth. Either way, the idea that mothers and kids should eat dirt (or perhaps visit farms) is a sound one and probably one that we should adhere to more closely.

    That being said, I must stress that keeping kids away from pathogens, is a necessity. This is why handwashing, hand sanitizer, proper hygiene and segregation when illness occurs are all important in this context.

    If there is a risk for pathogens – high density of people, unsafe food/water sources, presence of others who are sick and not properly covering themselves, healthcare facilities, etc., then precautions should be taken to prevent infection. If not, the potential for direct clinical illness is significant and for children especially, the potential for chronic sequelae later in life. We may not believe that an infection may cause problems years later but the reality is that we continue to see links between what we thought might have been a normal infection but ended up being a catalyst for troubles in adulthood.

    Thanks for taking the time to read.

  30. kiesha January 13, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Cheryl – I guess I should have said that there are probably people who hear “I let my kid eat dirt” who equate that with “I let my kid eat dirt for hours, everyday”. I imagine that for many people, seeing a parent let their kid lick a grocery cart or lick their muddy hands even for a second would set off the “OMG Bad Parent” alarm.

  31. Christina January 13, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    @Renee Anne – I think that saying food allergies are a lot of hooey from parents who didn’t let their kids get dirty/eat dirt is a bit of a broad brush and not particularly helpful for parents visiting this site whose children may well have food allergies. I let my children get dirty, pick things up from the floor and pop them in their mouth, didn’t panic over dropped binkies, etc. And yet, they both (twin boys) had quite the cow milk allergy, as did my brother who likewise grew up in un-pristine environs. Fortunately, both my brother and my sons eventually outgrew the allergy but not every child does. My children, in particular, have G6PD enzyme deficiency (current level – 0), which renders them “allergic” for lack of a better term, to things like fava beans and sulfa drugs. Only, because their levels are so low, the items to which they are “allergic” can cause an acute hematocritic reaction. It doesn’t matter how much gravel I let them eat, this is never going to go away and part of my job as a parent is to teach them how to mange this condition without worrying overmuch about it. Are there over-reactive parents who turn a minor food intolerance into an “allergy”? Absolutely. Are there parents of children with actual food allergies who keep their children in an overly sterile environment? Absolutely. But that is not true of every parent of a child with a food intolerance and it is not true of every parent of a child with a food or other allergy. To claim otherwise is unkind and not particularly respectful of other parents who, like you, are doing their best to raise confident and capable children.

  32. Michelle H January 13, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    No issues with dirt here. My 3 year old son loves playing in the dirt, and we definitely don’t use hand sanitizer. I even left him with a stranger! I had walked with him through the airport (gate B80 which was FAR), and I was hot and sweaty. He was whining for chips, so I gave him some and he sat on the chair at the gate. Then he asked for water…which I didn’t have. I WAS NOT relishing grabbing both our backpacks, jackets, him and his carseat and walking through the terminal to get water, and he definitely didn’t want to move. The grandmother reading her book (she had mentioned she was going to visit her grandkids) offered to watch him and our stuff so I could run to the drinking fountain 2 gates down to fill his sippy cup. Took me about a second to agree. When I came back, he was still eating his chips, and happily talking to her about Scooby Doo. Made my life much easier.

  33. Kevin January 13, 2012 at 2:39 am #

    “I let my kid chew on grocery cart handles and his dirty little hands, share toys with the dog, pick things up off the ground and stick them in his mouth, share spoons with me, play with kids that might be sick, and almost anyone that wants to touch him and play with him is allowed to do so. It’s true, he’s gotten sick a few times in his 14 months on Earth (pneumonia at 6 months and a couple of ear infections, plenty of snotty noses, etc.)”

    That’s a lot of illness for a 14 month old. (My wife and I have 8 kids and none of them have ever had that much sickness in such a short period of time.) I’m not advocating hand sanitizers, but there is something to be said for good old fashioned hand washing and keeping little ones away from sick people. The fact is that immune systems aren’t fully developed when they are young. It’s good they are playing in the dirt in the backyard, but it may not be so good they are playing with other sick children. Picking things off the floor and putting them in your mouth is probably not quite as big of a deal (assuming we’re not talking gross items or items that fall in public restrooms), but the shopping cart handle thing I find to be a bit gross. Those things are nasty. Most kids don’t have food allergies, so it’s a good chance your little one happens to be in the majority and it has nothing to do with what you allow him to ingest. I’m not trying to say you are making bad choices, but just that in my opinion, there is a middle ground. Nix the hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps. But keep the hand washing and keeping little ones away from sick people. :)

  34. Danielle Meitiv January 13, 2012 at 3:35 am #

    I am a free-ranger by nature – maybe I’m idealistic, optimistic or just naive but I honestly on;t think the world is that bad a place. I don’t want my kids to think it is either.

    But I get every parent’s desire to protect the little ones. I do.

    So here it is – the #1 way to do that. The single best thing a parent can do to seriously and significantly reduce his/her child’s risk of serious injury or death:


    Driving is by far the single most dangerous activity we expose our children to almost everyday. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 3 to 14. An average of 4 children age 14 and younger were killed and 490 were injured every day in the United States in motor vehicle crashes during 2009.

    It’s not just a matter child seats: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, half of the children killed in traffic accidents were using child seats. (That doesn’t mean that you should stop using them – when you must drive, strap ’em in!)

    If you really want to keep your kids out of harm’s way don’t worry about stranger abduction or the hazards of playing tag on asphalt. Hang the keys up and go for a walk – it will improve their health, the air they breath AND reduce their risk of injury or death in a very substantial way.

  35. Danielle Meitiv January 13, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    FYI – data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Traffic Safety Facts 2009: Children

  36. Brian January 13, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    In keeping with the spirit of the times, I am going to begin to produce dirt in a pill form. This way overachieving parents can provide a dirt supplement to their children who otherwise are only exposed to carpets and car interiors. Pregnant mothers should also take it with their fish oil.

    Then for the really rich, we will begin to collect dirt from around the world. Your child will have a tremendous advantage if they take just a few spoonfuls of Chinese dirt every day. That way when they work in China as adults they wont get sick.

  37. pentamom January 13, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    @Kevin, I’d say the pneumonia is unusual, but not unheard of, but a couple of ear infections and a bunch of snotty noses in 14 months isn’t that much. Some families, I’ve noticed, just get sick a lot more than others, and it doesn’t always boil down to over-or-under-cleanliness; I think there are genetic factors, and maybe life circumstances (what diseases adults bring home from work, schooling differences, etc.) that play a role as well.

    So I agree, keep the hands clean and so forth, but I would be real careful about judging that someone’s child sounds like they’re getting sick “too much” without knowing more.

  38. Kevin January 13, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    I don’t think I said it was “too much”. Just that it was a lot. :) Very true that some kids are just more sickly than others. I wasn’t meaning to sound judgmental. It just took me aback the way she stated it. 😉 Honestly I think it goes either way. Some people claim their kids never get sick because they are exposed to dirt. Others claim their kids never get sick because they are kept clean. I tend to go for the middle road. (Let ’em get as dirty as they want in nature but avoid others germs and other’s bodily filth and wash their hand before they eat.) As for allergies I think being exposed to nature has more to do with lessening chances of developing them than being exposed to others germs. Also, whatever happened to people actually staying home when they are sick? I realize this is the fault of work environments and public schools that are inflexible with sick days and it would be nice if some changes could be made.

  39. Jason "Germ Guy" Tetro January 13, 2012 at 5:14 am #


    For the record, we already have a ‘dirt’ pill that is readily available in pretty much any natural food store or drug mart.

    We prefer to call them probiotics.

  40. kherbert January 13, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    About hand santitizer in school. It isn’t about germphobia – it is about time. There are 4 sinks in each bathroom. We have 64 kids. For fun lets split the sexes evenly. 32 kids at each bathroom door. 4 sinks. That is 8 rotations of kids. So roughly 12 – 15 min washing hands – Half our recess time. Instead we line up 5 minutes before lunch – 2 teachers squirt the alcohol based santizer on hands and walk into the Caf (opposite sides of campus takes about 5 minutes to walk in). For kids with real dirt, I have wipes in my bag. Oh and if the kids don’t want to use it they don’t have to lie, just say no thank you.

    The two immune compromised kids go into the nurses office, wash their hands, and take their noon medication.

    At the Zoo – the soap they have in the bathrooms strips the skin off my hands more than regular public bathroom soap. Last time I touched some of it – I was stopped by 3 zoo employees and 2 Doctors visiting the zoo and asked if I needed medical care. They thought I had a chemical burn, in a way I guess I did. So my niece and nephew used hand santizer instead of the soap till they were old enough to wash their hands without help. Since they have been adding steps at the sinks that age got lower. For a while the issue was reaching the sink not washing hands.

    Oh and all allergies do not come from super clean environments. I was frequently covered head to foot with dirt/mud to the point Mom rinsed us off in the yard with the hose. I had my first reaction less than an hour after I was born. I was allergic to the laundry detergent. (So the fact my mother was prohibited due to medical reasons from Breast feeding wasn’t a factor either.)

  41. Hels January 13, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    There was a silly movie about the future with Sylvester Stallone… where all fluid exchanges between people were outlawed and all that jazz. We are moving right towards that. And it felt like such a parody when it came out in the early 90s.

  42. Aussie Sarah January 13, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    I love your blog and book, wish we got your new show Down Under! I just wanted to make a comment regarding allergies and dirt. I have three boys aged 2, 4 & 6 and they live in the dirt! We don’t use hand sanitized, never have and I let my kids eat food dropped on the floor and yet all three have food allergies. We have no history of allergies, excema or asthma, we are just unlucky! I know it is rob ably silly that I even feel the need to defend my dirt loving and yet still allergic kids, it is just that I am so not one of those germ phobic mothers!

    Thanks for encouraging my free range parenting to come out and keep up the great work!

  43. Brian January 13, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    It’s all about the marketing Jason, it’s all about the marketing

    One question, do second children generally have fewer allergies? It would seem that if dirt prevents some allergies, houses get dirtier with a kid around and the mother is much more apt to be at playgrounds, farms, around kids, etc. after already having 1 child.

  44. mollie January 13, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    It was a humbling moment in my life when I experienced infertility, because up until that time, I was pretty sure 99% of the people who had difficulty conceiving were the ones I remembered from junior high health class who didn’t pay attention to how the female reproductive cycle works… i.e. they couldn’t count to 12. Ah, what a fabulous character-builder it was to find out I was wrong, oh, so wrong.

    It was another humbling moment in my life when my child was diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy to cashew nuts, because up until that time, I was pretty sure 99% of the people who claimed they had a food allergy were simply hysterics who enjoyed attention. Ah, what a fabulous character-builder it was to find out I was wrong, so wrong—and it was I who had to start refusing unlabeled cookies and handing the Epi-pen to goggle-eyed parents hosting my son for a playdate and asking, “Are there any cashews in this? Did you cook this in a pan that was used to cook cashews?” at restaurants, potlucks, people’s homes…

    I was crushed when I found out that my son’s allergy to a foodstuff was life-threatening. Talk about awkward! As humans, our social intercourse relies so very heavily on food… in some cultures, it is the ultimate insult to refuse the food someone offers. And yet, my son was now in this “bubble-boy” category, so precious and delicate that he couldn’t take a free cookie offered by the grocery store. It pained me to have even a tiny bit of paranoia involved in my raising of him, because ten years ago, before Lenore raised her unsanitized fist, I was passionately advocating for society to make much less of a fuss about kids’ vulnerabilities to the stuff around them.

    What the allergy has done for me as a “free-range” parent is give me more humility, and I realize that every time I make the choice to judge another parent, I ratchet down my ability to experience peace and compassion within myself. The more experience I get as a parent, the more humbling moments I have (screaming child in public place, anyone? Oh, before I had kids, I thought the parents were surely to blame!)… well, the more I realize that every human being is simply doing the best they can to meet their own needs in that moment, with the consciousness they have.

    What I love about this movement is that I see it as a way to increase consciousness, to raise it up, to challenge imagined dangers and paralyzing fears and find more enjoyment and ease and LIFE in raising children.

    We keep an Epi-pen handy, usually, although I admit there are many times we are out and about without one. I used to insist that my son not eat ANYTHING if we didn’t have the drug with us, but I’ve seen over the last 8 years that we can take some calculated risks, read labels, etc. He does seem to be growing out of the allergy, thank goodness, and I relish the thought of him being free to accept unlabeled food from others someday.

    And please, don’t bother to tell me the story of how your sister’s friend’s son died because he ate something that was labeled improperly and they weren’t carrying the Epi-pen with them. There are less kids who die from anaphylaxis in my country each year than kids who get abducted by strangers, and let’s not even get into the car. But yes, diagnosed and undiagnosed folks eat the stuff that kills them sometimes. I’ve learned to live with this fact of life, and still live.

  45. Janet January 13, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    I agree, Kevin – middle-of-the-road. My kids are very free-range dirt-eaters, and I have found the more children I have, the more we have illness in the house (I suspect the older ones going to school and preschool bringing bugs home that the littler ones then suffer from more). And my sister’s two boys are very much dirt-eaters, and yet, with no family history of allergies, both have bad eczema, and one has nut allergies. You can can’t win ’em all!

    @Cheryl – my eldest (who I would say has been my healthiest) ate poop at the age of about 11 months. At the time, we were living in the US. I only mention that because, as Australians, we don’t seem to encounter quite the same degree of germ-phobia here as we did in the US. So, anyway, I mentioned at my mothers’ group in passing that our puppy had pooped in the the corner and my daughter had found it before I had, and decided to eat it. Me – cue head-shake and laughing as I recound the story. Friend – cue look of horror and exclamations of “OMG, did you take her to the ER?”

  46. mollie January 13, 2012 at 5:59 am #

    I would like to add that our son spent his first six months in Vietnam, in an orphanage that was anything but sterile, and spent most of his time on the tile floor, playing with the other babies and nannies. There were no diapers there. I remember standing next to a nanny who was holding an infant and feeling a warm sensation on my foot. The baby was pissing right onto the floor.

    I think when you see how robust and healthy a child can be at six months after living in that type of environment, it builds a healthy respect for the fact that it’s probably loving human interaction that matters most. There were no specially-designed stimulating toys, just empty formula cans and women singing songs. I came home to our über-isolated North American middle-class life and mourned what our son had lost: community. Instead of 10 babies and 7 women, it was him and me. Both of us suffered for it.

    I really believe that it’s not our interaction with “outsiders” that kills us. It’s the lack thereof.

  47. Jason "Germ Guy" Tetro January 13, 2012 at 6:01 am #


    Most studies focus on the children of mothers – we haven’t really gone past the first generation in that sense.

    I would suggest that each generation will be different as epigenetics changes throughout one’s life. But without proper testing over 2 generations, I can’t really tell.

    As for more than one child, I can tell you that as the environment changes, so will the effect on the child. So, your idea about increased exposure simply due to being a parent might be correct.

  48. Catherine Scott January 13, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    Dear Lord I feel so very sorry for the people mentioned in some of these anecdotes. What must it be like to live in such terror all the time?

    Much of what is now encouraged as ‘responsible parenting’ comes with a psychiatric label: ‘generalised anxiety disorder’;’ obsessive compulsive disorder’.

    And scientifically proven fact: sanitiser kills the friendly bacteria that live on everyone’s skins (we are composed of more microbe cells than human ones, but don’t tell that to the responsibily parenting obsessive compulsives or they may melt down) BUT IT DOESN’T KILL THE REALLY HARMFUL ONES.

    This isn’t an issue for healthy people but it is for those who are extra vulnerable in some way. The friendly microbes protect us from the nasties, you see.

    Soap kills the nasties but leaves the co-evolved good guys alone.

    Use soap.

    Re; allergies, parents have been encouraged to not feed their babies anything but milk for the first six months. This has turned out to be precisely the wrong thing to do. As the advice to keep non-milk away from babies has been followed the rate of allergy has gone up, including life threatening peanut allergies. These don’t occur in anywhere near the same numbers in countries where people wean their babies using food that includes peanuts.

    If you want to avoid allergies, peanut ones included, start other foods before six months.

  49. Stephanie January 13, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    I love that my kids enjoy the dirt so much. I have a great photo of my oldest with mud splashed all over her. She’d aimed the hose with a spray nozzle at a patch of mud, and learned that mud splashes backward too. She also learned that when you’re dirty enough, your parents will laugh, take a picture, and then hose you down to get you clean enough to get into the tub, even when it’s not all that warm out.

    I am really happy with my son’s first grade teacher right now, though. First graders are supposed to be picked up by a responsible person, usually a parent or other adult. My son’s teacher is happy to count my oldest daughter (4th grade) as responsible enough to pick him up and have them walk home together. She even told the kids that they had to walk when a friend tried to get them to accept a ride. I wouldn’t have worried about the friend giving them a ride – it was one they’ve gone with before, but I made sure to tell the teacher how much I appreciated her backing me up and making the kids walk.

  50. bmax January 13, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    “Re; allergies, parents have been encouraged to not feed their babies anything but milk for the first six months. This has turned out to be precisely the wrong thing to do. As the advice to keep non-milk away from babies has been followed the rate of allergy has gone up, including life threatening peanut allergies. These don’t occur in anywhere near the same numbers in countries where people wean their babies using food that includes peanuts.

    If you want to avoid allergies, peanut ones included, start other foods before six months”

    Way to spread misinformation there.. source please? Babies DO NOT need anything else but milk in the first 6 mos of life.

  51. JC January 13, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Marketing people have done a great job scaring people into the belief that all germs must be eradicated. I remember seeing a Lysol commercial about 10 years ago where the mother was protecting her toddler by spraying Lysol all the toddler’s toys. I’ll take my chances with my kid getting germs in her mouth over the chemicals in Lysol any day.

    I also wonder how much bacteria has mutated to resist all these anti-bacterial products around today. In about 20 years or so, you’re going to see a giant 50 foot bacteria attacking New York. :)

  52. thinkbannedthoughts January 13, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    I love that the comments went down the hand sanitizer vs germs road. But it also makes me giggle, because, after all, that was the metaphor, not the meat.
    I’m interested in what you all think of the cultural memes of fear mongering vs fear inoculation.
    How do we all get some “social dirt” on us to rid ourselves of our many “social allergies”? How do we train our minds, and our children’s minds, to be able to recognize real threats (ie; social germs) when we’re constantly being told to shield ourselves from everything, in effect socially sanitizing ourselves and breaking out with “social allergies.”
    Not sure if continuing the metaphor worked, but I’d really love to see what you all think about pushing what Lenore has started into a larger social movement.
    Starting with “Bring Back Dirt” signs and “Take your kid to the park (and leave them there)” days, and Gever Tully’s amazing camp where kids get to play with power tools, and… How do we scale this up and reclaim childhood for all the poor bubble-wrapped, fear raised children of America?

  53. Mrs. H January 13, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    It’s reassuring to read that many moms out there agree with me on dirt (i.e. if it were dangerous the human race would have died out long ago), because the examples I see first-hand in my helicoptery neighborhood are just the opposite.

    One mom brought me a handful of raisinets my daughter had dropped on the gym floor because my daughter was picking them up and eating them (I smiled and nodded and then let her eat them when helper mom turned away. Raisinets are expensive.)

    My daughter was the only one in her playgroup allowed to go barefoot in the park.

    When dd was 9 months old I stopped my grocery cart to talk to another woman with a 9-month-old. Hers was in the quilted protective grocery cart seat cover, while mine had the grocery cart handle in her mouth.

    Don’t even ask about the comments when I let her touch the interior of a subway car or walk down our urban street barefoot. Yes, I know dogs pee here. Is old, dried-up dog pee toxic???

    Of course dd is perfectly healthy–I mean, like, freakishly healthy. It almost makes me feel non-guilty when I forget to have her wash her hands when we get home from errands. Almost.

  54. Lollipoplover January 13, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    I believe I’ve told this story here before so bear with me…

    My son was 2 and outside roaming our large, fenced-in yard (I was inside nursing a newborn.) He came upon a robin’s egg and decided to eat it. He thought it was one of the Easter peanut M&M’s he had enjoyed at my Mother-in-Law’s. He then came back to the house, with the embryo oozing from his mouth, and was saying “Bad candy, bad candy!” I freaked out, called the pediatrician (fearing Salmonella) and was put on hold by a nurse who couldn’t contain her laughter. The doctor got on the phone, also laughing, and said it was disgusting, but not likely dangerous and thanked me for making him laugh so hard.

    My kids are also freakishly healthy, and often called “rough and tumble” which I take as a compliment. I consider a dirty child a happy child (and have told this to all their preschool teachers) and think most kids today suffer from “Nature Deficiency Disorder” and should be sent outside vs. their room when punished. There is nothing better than making mudpies and getting filthy to clear your mind.

  55. mollie January 13, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Catherine said:

    Much of what is now encouraged as ‘responsible parenting’ comes with a psychiatric label: ‘generalised anxiety disorder’;’ obsessive compulsive disorder’.


    Although I’m not one for labels, I have received many: “irresponsible,” “negligent,” and “criminal,” to name a few. And what did I do to earn such derision? I let my 7-year-old walk a mile to school in temperate weather in a pristine, traffic-moderate town with marked crossings, but only after shadowing him at a distance four times to be sure he understood the route and the proper street-crossing protocol.

    I pleaded with my ex-husband to recall his own mid-1960s childhood in St. Paul, MN. “Don’t you remember getting yourself to school?” I asked. “Don’t you remember being outside *without* your parents present? Don’t you remember walking to a friend’s house before you were in junior high school?” His answer: “Don’t you know how many cars are stolen off of this island every day?”

    Blink. Blink.

    Do they all have 7-year-old boys in the back seats?

    Because I am more of a lover than a fighter, I expressed my compassion for Dad’s concern about Son’s well-being and safety, and proceeded to explain how allowing the child to walk to school was my way of supporting those values. He made sure I understood that CPS wouldn’t see it the same way, and we agreed that he would let me know when, and if, DAD was ready to allow Son to walk to school. Dad agreed that Son was ready.

    I want parents to consider their CHILDREN’S needs, not just their own, when making “safety decisions.” What Dad also said during that conversation was, “I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to that kid.”

    So that’s a justification to deny him normal, age-appropriate independent activity? Because YOU can’t bear the thought of loss? What about HIS loss, every day, when you deny growth, learning, and joy?

    Yes, we might lose our children. Even if we are holding their hand. This is what a spiritual practice is for. To cultivate a sense of acceptance of life and all of its uncertainties.

    Can I get an amen?

  56. Elizabeth January 13, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    OK, I have to chime in here on the shopping cart handle thing. Would those of you who allow their babies to chew on the handles also let their babies suck on toilet seats in a public restrooms? According to several studies these cart handles actually host more germs, bacteria, and fecal matter than public restrooms (which are cleaned more often). So if you wouldn’t let them suck on a public toilet seat, then don’t let them suck on a shopping cart handle. I’m not saying we need to cover all the handles or disinfect them thoroughly before use, but common sense dictates we put our fruits and veges in the plastic bags provided, we wash our hands when we get home, and we don’t allow our babies to chew on them. Gross! :)

  57. Jennifer J January 13, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    My grandfather, a farmer, always told us “you have to eat a PECK of dirt before you die”. That is a fourth of a bushel. My mom and her siblings ate food straight from the field when they were working, and we did, too, when we were old enough to be allowed to pick. Plus, our sandbox, back when such things were uncovered and cats roamed freely, was supplied with serving spoons. We frequently “served” each other tasty bites of mud pie. This is only an anecdote. I am not trying to say this proves anything – just a statement of fact as I remember it.

  58. Betsy January 13, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Wow – dirt really strikes a chord with people (as our grandmothers used to say “you have to eat a peck [not just a speck!] of dirt before you die”). I just want to note what I have decided after 10 years of parenthood and a lifetime of pet ownership: if you have children or pets, THERE IS MICROSCOPIC POOP EVERYWHERE, and you really have to get over it (I have several funny stories of cats with diarrhea and babies in diapers). Reasonable cleanliness and awareness of how germs spread is all that is necessary (the petting zoo is a good place for hand sanitizer, also doctor’s offices full of sick people). We do take our shoes off in our house because I’d rather my kid eat the food off the floor that the indoor/outdoor cats drag dirt onto than from my sneakers, with the miles of chemical laden places they go to. I wash light laundry in hot water, mostly to kill odors, and don’t worry about getting sick from my underwear (as some studies have demonstrated that “bugs” still remain in the washing machine) – I’m not one of those folks who finds it necessary to bleach undies. And I always remember the germ expert who said he’d rather eat out of a toilet bowl than a kitchen sink (in terms of possibly getting sick).

  59. Gina January 13, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    @Jason–What about the idea that when children get cold, flu, etc, they become immune to that particular virus? I know it’s not the same for bacterial illnesses, but I don’t understand why parents try to prevent every little cold. It’s part of growing up to have snotty noses and occasional ear infections.
    I think the fact that there is a “germ guy” blog, speaks volumes.

  60. socalledauthor January 13, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    I’m going to chime in here. Your genetics does play a huge role, I think, in your health regarding illnesses and allergies. As, I’m sure, does environment. They are not, imho, mutually exclusive. I grew up in a dusty old (150 plus years) house t that was constantly in a state of “renovation” (aka my parents never had enough money to do more than patch together the latest emergency.) We had cats, including several litters of kittens before my mom could scrape together the money to fix the cat. My parents started us kids on solid foods by three or four months of age (if we grabbed at it, they fed it.) And I was sick all the time with ear infections, bronchitis, pnuemonia, asthma, and an increasing dust allergy. My three brothers have no allergies. Two of my brothers almost never get sick while the last always does (and he’s a huge baby about it, LOL.)

    I ate a normal American diet consisting heavily of grains (particulaly wheat, usually processed.) In my early twenties, my allergies came on with a vengance. Seasonal, dust, and mold. Then, a wheat allergy. (Not Celiac). Then, I added a corn allergy. And an allergy to Claritin (how’s that for trying to treat your seasonal allergies?) So, dirt won’t hurt, generally, though a dust-related asthma attack is no fun, but it’s not a cure-all.

    I don’t worry about my son eating off my kitchen floor, but I’m not too keen on him eating off the floor at the grocery store. I don’t clean his hands while playing, but do before and after he eats. Yet, he has recently decided HE doesn’t like his hands yucky. I can’t figure out why as the only time I have ever cleaned his hands when it’s not eating time is when he’s grabbed something nasty (poop or raw meat) or sticky.

    Sometimes, I think, as parents we’re awful quick to assume causation (my kid ate dirt and that’s why he’s healthy) means correlation. This is the same behavior we free-rangers tend to decry on the overly-paranoid side. But instead of assuming that if the kid eats dirt or plays outside something super awful horrible will happen, some times, we assume that because our kid ate dirt or played outside that’s the whole reason why they are healthy or confident or whatever. And that’s just not always the case.

  61. Cheryl W January 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Bmax, maybe the babies don’t NEED anything other than breast milk under 6 months, but some of them WANT to try other things.

    I am on a Facebook group of mostly young mothers (it seems) and many of them exclusively breast feed until after 1. I always wonder how they do it – my kids all were reaching to the table and trying to eat the food that everyone else was eating way before one, and all of them were interested in trying earlier than 6 months. They would sit there in their little slanty seats near the table while I was eating. Each time I lifted the fork and put food in my mouth, they would open theirs. It seemed pretty evident what they wanted.

    Note: I am not saying the exclusively breast feeding until 1 is bad, one way or the other. It is different from what I did and what I observed with my kids. I am hopeful that they are observant of their own kids. I am certainly not one to judge, my oldest nursed until he was over 3, just, it wasn’t exclusively what he ate during those first 3 years.

  62. Donna January 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    It is not a one-on-one correlation. Your immune system and allergies (the tendency to be allergic, not the allergies themselves) are inherited. Hyper-clean environments do negatively effect the immune system in the ways mentioned but it’s not instantaneous and massive. This is actually been a problem that has been building over generations as the western world has become wealthier, and therefore, cleaner. Therefore, you can actually eat lots of dirt and have a kid allergic to everything if the tendency to be allergic is already present in the family gene pool.

    In other words, say I lived in a hyper-clean, dirt-free world of sanitizers. My immune system would be slightly weakened but likely not plague-level with many serious allergies. If I then mate with another hyper-clean person with a slightly weakened immune system and together we keep a hyper-clean house, we would have children with even weaker immune systems and a higher likelihood of developing allergies. And so it goes through generations with each generation inheriting a weaker immune system and being more prone to allergies and stronger reactions to those allergens. As more and more people become obsessed with dirt, the number of people with weakened immune systems and the tendency to be allergic in the mating pool increases. At some point, like now, the changes do become noticeable in society.

    The system works in reverse as well. If you are exposed to germs, your immune system increases and your likelihood of seriously reacting to allergens diminishes but likely not noticeably so. Through subsequent generations, the inherited immune system strengthens and the allergy gene diminishes in the gene pool. So the theory goes anyway.

  63. shafooey January 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    @bmax: Perhaps the Guardian is a good enough source?


    Nobody is saying to stop breastfeeding. They are saying that it’s not a bad thing to supplement the diet.

  64. charbatkin January 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    On the topic of strangers, I just read a piece in HuffPo about a couple driving across country relying on the kindness of strangers. While not kid focused, per se, it does address the larger issue of what is lost amongst the stranger phobia we’ve all become accustomed to. I especially appreciate its positive, ‘lead by example’ approach.


  65. Sera January 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    As with everything, there is a middle ground. I’m not a germophobe, but I do stick by a basic, simple regimen of hygiene which should ensure that I don’t catch or spread anything particularly nasty.

    Remember that most of the bad infections illnesses (and most of illnesses overall) are spread via bodily fluids – mucus, pus, phlegm, saliva, urine, semen, vaginal fluids, feces and blood, blood being far and away the most infectious. To cause an infection, the bodily fluid or bodily fluid residue must enter the host.

    The shorter time between the infectious fluid leaving the host and entering the new person, the more diseases are likely to make it through.

    Some surfaces preserve pathogens for a lot longer than others – metal and plastic will keep viruses and bacteria alive for a lot longer than fabric or paper.

    Use that knowledge to determine what is or is not reasonable hygiene. I’ve always thought that a sensible hygiene regimen includes washing my hands after using the toilet, before eating, after touching my own blood/mucus/saliva etc (i.e. if I’ve wiped my nose on my hand, licked my hand or sneezed on my hand), or after touching something that is particularly unhygienic. Also, bathing once per day unless impractical is important.

    Additional hygiene should be observed when preparing food for those not living in the same household.

    I feel that all of that is a healthy line to take – hygiene should be observed and considered important, but it’s not necessary to sterilise every surface all the time, wash or sterilise hands between every action, or whatever. Not all illnesses can be avoided, and a lot of them really don’t matter – there are a lot of illnesses like colds that are simply unpleasant, but not life threatening or permanently damaging.

    That being said, there are some things that you really SHOULDN’T let your small children put in their mouthes. Public, frequently-touched metal and plastic surfaces are one – simply because it’s very easy for bodily fluids to end up on them, and viruses to live on them until they find a new host. Adult wipes mouth or nose or scratches sore, touches bus pole/shopping cart handle/money and transfers mucus/saliva/blood to the surface. You typically won’t get a disease from touching those surfaces after they dry, because very little of the pathogen will end up in your mouth or bloodstream – not enough for an infection. SUCKING on it, however, is a very different story.

    Really, weigh up the cost vs reward.

    An infant absolutely does not gain enough developmentally from sucking on the shopping cart handle to outweigh the risk of catching something nasty (or a lot of things that are simply unpleasant). What is the “risk”? Refer to “Mrs. A”‘s post, fifth one from the top. Her kid caught herpes from a shopping cart handle, which I think is really sad (and also really, really unfortunate). You might let your primary-school-aged kid walk to school because you feel that it is important for his freedom, independence, confidence and development. You weigh this reward against the risk of him getting injured or abducted on the way. You determine that the risk is very unlikely and the reward is high, so you let him walk. That is reasonable. I just can’t see ANY real “reward” from allowing an infant/toddler to put highly unhygienic objects in their mouth, or not teaching a child that they should wash their hands before meals and after using the toilet.

    Let your toddler chew sticks or eat a bit of mud if you must – these objects might be unsanitary but they’re also not likely to have serious infectious diseases on them – but don’t let them chew the shopping cart handles. Let your kid touch the keyboards at the library and touch the bus and train and whatever without sanitising it first – but make sure they wash their hands before eating. Let your kid play with the dog, get licked, have dog hairs on their bed – but don’t let them allow the dog to lick their food.

    Basic hygiene has helped the western world come a long way in defeating the spread of majorly nasty illnesses. It is a very useful and sensible practice when taken in moderation. Remember that.

  66. Dave January 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Couldn’t have said it better. Be healthy, play in the dirt.

  67. Sassystep January 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    I have two stepkids. They spend part of their time at their mom’s and part of their time with their dad and I. They are always getting sick at their mom’s – stomach flu’s, colds, ear infections. Last year my SD was sick for a good 6-8 months. Interestingly enough, they rarely get sick at our house. The difference? At mom’s they stay inside all day – they watch TV, play video games, stay up late, etc. Our house is different. We swim, toboggan, ice skate, hike, bike ride, camp, etc. The kids have regular bedtimes and we even have a cat (apparently SS is allergic but we haven’t had a single issue). I do think that having good sleep plays a factor (kids aged 6 & 9 shouldn’t be going to bed at 10pm on school nights IMO), but I also think that sometimes the kids get sick because they are bored (subconciously of course) – they are too busy living life at our house to get sick!

    We also have a very different idea of what “sick” is. I don’t think that a sniffly nose means that you should stay home from school, curl up under a blanket on the couch and be catered to. I have a scratchy throat right now myself, but I’m still living life! We are trying really hard to teach the difference between being “sick” and “under the weather”.

    Someone commented on how people can breastfeed exclusively up until 1 year old because their kids were showing interest in food much younger. I think that is because you are incorporating your child into your family life. I always planned on having my baby sit up at the table with the rest of us when we are eating to help establish routines and family time early. I notice that many people will feed their kids seperately and not have them at the table. I know that with my SK’s they weren’t encouraged to sit at the table with the family until they were school aged and SD does have some food issues now. I honestly believe that if she had been part of that from the beginning that she would have a much healthier relationship with food.

  68. J.T. Wenting January 14, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    “By way of metaphor, scientists now believe that part of the reason for the giant surge in food allergies is a severe lack of dirt eating by today’s children. (Seriously.) Kids aren’t getting enough exposure to germs and dirt and so their bodies aren’t learning how to tell the difference between an actual threat and something normally benign.”

    and not just in food. It’s the anti-septic environment kids are raised in, by parents who are pathologically afraid of “germs” that they’ll clean their homes to a degree not dissimilar to a clean room in a medical research lab.
    They as a result raise kids who effectively have no immune system, as well as destroying their own.

    I see it with my sister. Her kids aren’t allowed to play outside most of the time, not because it’s dangerous (they have an enclosed back yard) but becuse they might get dirty and sick.
    She’s constantly scrubbing them (and the house, and herself) with anti-bacterial stuff.

    And the entire family as a result has loads of alergies.

  69. wendyww January 14, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    Off topic….
    an acquaintance posted this quote on facebook. I thought it appropriate to the Free Range philosophy. I have not verified the source, and do not know how to go about doing so.

    “To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse.” -John Quincy Adams

  70. Jynet January 14, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    TaraK, on January 12, 2012 at 22:57 said:
    On another topic, I was at the library the other day. On a shelf of books for parents to read while their kids are dinking around in the children’s section was the book “The Safe Baby”. 271 pages of “worst first” thinking with examples of how to safely ride a bike with a baby in a bike seat, baby proofing the heck out of your house and how to look for danger around every corner. I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote, “google Free Range Kids, world proof your child, don’t child proof your world!” and tucked it in the book. Hehehe

    Power on! I LOVE this. I have a friend who spends her spare money buying copies of BAD parenting books at second hand book stores and destroying them. Small actions sure, but with good results.

  71. Cheryl W January 14, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    So, a question to ponder, because yes, I know that for instance Polio became epidemic with advent of better hygiene, but is the prevalence of allergies and such now due to the increased hygiene, or is it because the weak died at a much earlier age in centuries past?

    Go compare two graveyards, one from current and one from a century or two ago. There are a lot more babies and young children there in the past. Some would be due to accidents, but some must be illness and I would suggest most.

    Something to ponder – do these studies examine child mortality in the past, or just the “issues”? Did these weakened kids not show up with the issues because they were dead?

  72. Donna January 14, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    Cheryl, while child mortality does play a part – in the past, kids with seriously weak immune systems didn’t live until adulthood to reproduce leaving only the healthier immune systems in the gene pool – it really doesn’t explain allergies. The vast majority of allergies are not life threatening; they are simply inconvenient and annoying. While you would certainly expect to see an increase in anaphylatic allergies and asthma today due to modern medicine, you would not expect to see a substantial increase in mild and moderate allergies and yet we do.

  73. Sylvana January 14, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    Reminds me of a comment of a fellow American (I’m Canadian) who said that they ban Kinder Eggs (Chocolate egg with a toy inside) because they love and care for their children!

  74. wksocmom January 14, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    I think eating dirt and exposing your kids to the real, dirty world does help with their immune system and preventing sicknesses, I don’t like to take all the credit. I also read to my kids and expose them to a variety of foods, but they remain someone picky eaters and reluctant readers :) I did learn about a study (in my statistics class) on whooping cough that the highest incidence was on the middle class vs lower class, less exposure to germs.

    I also blame all the new chemicals, preservatives, GMOs and all the other crap that’s become our food on the high incidences of allergies and illnesses.

  75. Gina January 14, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    I think this conversation misses a point. It’s not about whether eating dirt makes you sick or if not washing hands spreads colds…it’s about WHY parents don’t want their kids to EVER get colds, etc. Kids get sick and THAT improves their immune systems. Seeking to prevent every virus that comes along serves the purpose of weakening the immune system to my mind. And remember, every viral illness that one gets as a kid is one s/he won’t get as an adult. The fear of snot is the real issue here! :)

  76. An Onny January 14, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    I think being “around” dirt and dust is good for the immune system, but I don’t know why everyone keeps talking about “eating” dirt. Google raccoon poop and parasites sometime. We have a TON of raccoons in our area. I would not encourage dirt eating, myself.

  77. beckyS January 14, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    Ever see the episode of MythBusters where they put 24 toothbrushes at various distances from their toilet to see if they had fecal coliform bacteria on them? Not only did ALL the toothbrushes have it, the two control toothbrushes that were kept under cover, well away from the bathroom, tested positive as well! As Jamie said,” there’s poo everywhere! Whaddya gonna do?” And as the bacteriologist who tested the toothbrushes said, “it’s nothing to worry about. After all, we’re all here and we’re all healthy, right?” Thank you, Adam and Jamie!

  78. Jynet January 14, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    Sylvana, on January 14, 2012 at 04:07 said:
    Reminds me of a comment of a fellow American (I’m Canadian) who said that they ban Kinder Eggs (Chocolate egg with a toy inside) because they love and care for their children!
    Always enjoy that conversation, lol. Because us Canadians and Europeans don’t right? 😉

  79. Cheryl W January 14, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Donna, (not picking on what you are saying) but, in the past did people just live with these things because there was not much they could do? Do people today have a higher expectation that modern medicines will cure everything?

  80. Cheryl W January 14, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    I don’t encourage my kids to eat dirt or sand. Sand that has gone through is hard to clean off of a kid.

    Eating the dirt happens because I happened to be doing something else, like gardening, hanging up clothes on the line or paying attention to a sibling. I have a realistic expectation that I cannot watch and control EVERY move that my child makes.

    I am not going to freak out about it either, until they show signs of upset stomach or such.

  81. socalledauthor January 14, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    I think the question of allergies is multi-faceted, myself. Not just that those with a weaker immune system manage to live and reproduce. Not just that a super-clean environment may be confusing a body prepared to fight. What about diet– the over-processed and chemical laden foods? Especially the things that the most other countries ban because of the health concerns (like red 40). I’m not convinced that better-living-through-chemistry is the best fuel for our bodies…. and there is increasing evidence of how much a mother’s diet during pregnancy may influence the kid’s palate and health. And now the evidence coming out against BPA in cans (one can of soup results in elevated BPA levels in the body) plus the trans fat and other things. These things are hard to prove because of the many variables in a person’s diet, but this is one of the HUGE changes since the turn of the century (heh, meaning of course 1900). Commercialized, processed, chemically altered wide-spread food for everyone.

    I admit I have some bias in this regard. If I had been a different person, I’d be taking prednisone still to treat my allergy symptoms. My doctor was convinced it was just pollen (even though the pollen counts that week were almost nill) and just prescribed a drug. Unwilling to take a steroid, I tried an elimination diet and found the real culprit was wheat. Without this step on my own, I would have been just another person with severe “seasonal” allergies– except I wasn’t. My seasonal allergies are quite mild. Similarly, the Celiac forums are FULL of stories of people misdiagnoses for years, decades even– because few people, even doctors, are able to process that the problem is the very core of the American/ Western diet– the ubiquitous wheat. This is only one example, but it makes me question how big of an impact diet can have. Could it be affecting our bodies in ways we would never know– because the afflicted are too late or unlikely to undertake the challenge of an elimination diet?

    But the question was raised about what has changed– and I see diet as a huge change between then and now.

  82. Donna January 14, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Cheryl, possible. I do know that things like mild food allergies were not identified in earlier generations. They were simply viewed as delicate stomachs and the like. But untreated hay fever has always been readily identifiable – not as being hay fever necessarily, but lots of congestion, sneezing and generally feeling crummy every spring and/or fall is hard to miss. I don’t recall as many people in my youth having visible allergy symptoms as today, even with the plethora of allergy medication available now. In my youth, a handful of kids in my classes had visible allergies. They seem to afflict every other kid in my daughter’s classes.

  83. Uly January 14, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Beckys, I don’t watch the show, but I read a similar report. As the researcher said in it, stray fecal matter is just one of those nasty parts of life it’s best not to think about. (And this is why we still have yet to wipe out cholera and rotovirus. I had rotovirus. Awful, awful disease.)

  84. Steve January 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    There is a strong emotional component to the causes of allergies and asthma. It seems like few people know this.

  85. JaneW January 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Point of biology, folks:

    Dirt from a garden, or lake water, is filled with ordinary bacteria that, according to the hygiene hypothesis, help a baby’s immune system develop normally and may help prevent allergies. These bacteria are not dangerous unless you have a seriously compromised immune system or they get into a large open wound.

    A door handle that a person with the flu just touched is another matter entirely. Living in a modern crowded society, even the most sheltered children are exposed to plenty of viruses already. More exposure to viruses does NOT help balance a child’s immune system, it just makes the kid sick with a nasty respiratory infection, which actually INCREASES the risk of asthma.

    So, with a strong family history of allergies on both sides (including allergies to sterilizing chemicals) I will let my kids swim in lakes (that aren’t too polluted.) I will have them dig in the garden and not fuss too much about handwashing right after. But when out in public around sick people, I will keep their hands clean.

    Let’s have the facts straight : )

  86. Elizabeth January 14, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    Well said, JaneW! (And yes, fecal matter is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to let your baby suck on concentrated sources of it that ALSO include concentrated sources of viruses and bacteria. Please just cover the shopping cart handle or tell the baby “no” – another novel concept.) 😉

  87. Uly January 15, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Elizabeth, if telling babies “no” worked, consistently, every time, life would just be AWESOME.

    However, alas, babies don’t speak English.

    At any rate, I didn’t want to put a baby in the seat of the grocery cart. That’s where I put all my STUFF. When I had to go shopping with my baby niece (back when she was a baby), I wore her in my mei-tai.

  88. Uly January 15, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Although, it must be noted, the downside of this is that when Evangeline got rotovirus (a day before I came down with it, awful, awful disease!!!) she threw up directly on my back. Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew!

  89. Cheryl W January 15, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    I did note that when I did not let my kids ride in the “kiddie” carts (fire engines, butterflies) that the amount of sickness went down for the whole family. When the swine flu hit, I went to the store really early in the morning by myself and the sickness level even decreased more.

    Unfortunately, we had to move the end of that summer, and I had no choice but to take them with me when my husband left two weeks early for his new job. We all got the swine flu and the youngest made a trip to the ER because he couldn’t breath. Exactly what I was trying to avoid. I had been hoping we could hold off getting sick until a vaccination came out. Swine flu was THE most miserable two weeks of our lives. Followed closely by the week we all had the Noro virus. The few times as an adult that I wished I had my mommy there to help me out.

    I do try to use the wipes on the cart handles now, and to make sure we wash hands when we get home. I am not sure though if it is the climate or a generally more healthy population, (or age, outgrowing some) but we have not gotten as sick since we moved to eastern WA. It is dry and desert like, and cooler in winter, hotter in summer.

  90. Maureen January 15, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    When my kid was barely a year he was licking trees at the park. He also stuck my sister’s flip flop in his mouth – a flip flop that had, earlier in the day, been walking through the hospital. The only time he gets sick is when he catches something from the kids at his nursery school.

    Just the other day, I watched a woman wrap a shopping cart up in cloth. It took her forever. What a waste of time.

  91. Maureen January 15, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    @wksocmom – Whooping cough is probably also a problem in middle class children because parents are more susceptible to the BS spouted by certain B-list celebs that childhood immunizations are bad. I read that they are more likely to not have their children immunized.

  92. mollie January 15, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    Once I watched how viruses were spread, like a simulation of people playing cards and a blacklight showing where the virus was, I realized how sort of hopeless it is to try to avoid getting sick if I leave the house at all, or even if “healthy” people come to visit me. Flu, for instance, is communicated before the infected carrier becomes symptomatic, so that “healthy” person I hugged or that “healthy” child I kissed might have been the one who infected me.

    Or maybe it wasn’t the shopping cart, but the can of beans I picked up. Turns out that can of beans had been fondled and replaced on the shelf by a person who dragged themselves out shopping even though they were coming down with a nasty bug.

    My ex is the type who wants to place blame whenever he gets sick. “I caught this from so-and-so,” as if the germs come with monograms. It’s the same way with living my life. Every time I touch anything, I can imagine some bug is hitching a ride, and even though I try to notice if I’m touching my face, sometimes I just do it without thinking, and it only takes the teensiest little bit of virus to start the infection.

    Bolstering immunity from the inside by getting enough sleep and having proper nutrition seems to be the most important advice. Sure, wash your hands. Dry them completely, though, as it’s come out that wet, clean hands are your worst enemy, they’re magnets for icky bugs.

    With four young kids in my house, I can’t possibly monitor all the things they touch, or divine whether or not they are communicable but asymptomatic carriers of disease. I live my damned life! The idea that all illness can be kept at bay by proper hand-washing or sanitizer gel application seems like the worst kind of conceit to me.

    Take reasonable precautions that don’t turn your life upside down or start interfering with your ability to enjoy connection, community, love, ease, and peace in your soul.

    And again, practice acceptance. Even if you “do everything right,” whether it’s in parenting or in everyday disease control, kids still die occasionally and people get sick all the time. “But it shouldn’t have happened! I did everything right!” I still catch myself thinking this way sometimes, and it’s an awful way to live.

  93. socalledauthor January 15, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    @moliie: you make an excellent point about practicing acceptance! As parents we have a tough job– we have to sift through the possibilities, the facts and “facts”, the unsolicited advice from people who may or may not know the facts, and the ever changing public opinion. Then we have to choose what we think is best– and we may be wrong. I let my son climb on some cube-chair/ foot rest things at the portrait studio… and he managed to fall off and hit his head on the only hard thing in the vicinity. But I think the experience of climbing onto them was rewarding, even if there was later a negative experience (which reinforced a caution of edges and climbing.)

  94. socalledauthor January 15, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    Sorry mollie– I mistyped your name!

  95. Elizabeth January 15, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    “Elizabeth, if telling babies “no” worked, consistently, every time, life would just be AWESOME.
    However, alas, babies don’t speak English.”

    By the time they are old enough to sit up in a cart they understand the word “no”. 😉 At least all of my babies did/do and most babies I know did. If you consistently tell them “no” in a gentle, but firm way and show them what you mean, they will catch on fairly quickly. (Like if they are leaning forward to put the handle in their mouth you stop them and shake your head and say, “no” gently but firmly. Do this consistently several times and they will understand.) However, it IS much easier in this situation to use a cart cover or a wrap – I also used wraps for my babies while shopping.

  96. Gina January 15, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    JaneW–You said “More exposure to viruses does NOT help balance a child’s immune system, it just makes the kid sick with a nasty respiratory infection, which actually INCREASES the risk of asthma.”
    I respectfully disagree. When a child gets a viral infection, s/he is immune from that virus for life. As for asthma, that is another “Illness of the week” as far as I can tell.
    (Now, before you parents of asthmatic children get all worked up, i am NOT saying asthma doesn’t exist. Just to set the record straight, I think Asperger’s is a “diagnosis of the week” as well, and I have a child who has it.)
    That said, every one of my five kids has been “diagnosed” by a pediatrician with an asthmatic episode during a viral respiratory illness. My youngest (who is 14) had bronchialitos (like RSV)at 5 months and was on a breathing treatment. Fast forward, I have 5 adults who have had sporadic viral respiratory infections like everyone else, and have never truly had “asthma”.
    I still say a kid with a cold is much much better than an adult with one.

  97. Sarah January 15, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    I have 4 kids, ages 10, 7, 4, and 1 and when my older two were little we used to be relaxed about good hygiene as some have mentioned here – letting babies chew on cart handles, only washing our hands when we saw dirt, etc. They were sick the normal amount of average kids – several colds a year, vomiting at least once or twice a season, a few ear infections/strep/bronchitis, etc. Then 5 years ago when oldest was 5 and the second was 2 and I was pregnant with #3 I decided I wanted to see if taking a few precautions limited our sicknesses. So I bought a cart cover, we washed our hands after every outing and before every meal, and we avoided sick people. Let me tell you, in those 5 years we have not had the stomach bug even once, we have had an average of one or maybe two cold a year, and no doctor visits for any ear infections/bronchitis/strep. We are free to live our lives without illnesses getting in the way as much as they used to. (And we did not change our diet, as we had always eaten very healthy.) My kids are happy and healthy and allergy free and they play outside for hours every day. So while certainly the theory that germs are everywhere may be very true, it is also true that with very little effort, you can cut down on illnesses quite a bit. And who wouldn’t want that? :)

  98. Bella Englebach January 15, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Germs are everywhere, and only a few of them are pathogenic. However, there are a few things that free-range children should be taught regarding the consumption of their environment, including not to eat wild mushrooms (even if they think they know how to identify them,) only to eat berries and leaves that they have been taught to identify, and never to drink water from a puddle, stream or lake, no matter how clean it looks, That doesn’t mean they can’t play or even swim in the water, just don’t gulp it down.
    And i have asthma, and I hung out with a lot of dirt as a kid.

  99. Donna January 15, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    “They were sick the normal amount of average kids – several colds a year, vomiting at least once or twice a season, a few ear infections/strep/bronchitis, etc.”

    That’s the normal amount of sickness for average kids? Your one year total is far more sickness than my child has had in all her 6+ years combined – without flu shots, sanitizers, cart covers, regular hand washing (except at school) or avoiding ill people and while attending day care/public school.

    I guess that it is kind of a catch 22. Kids with iron immune systems like mine can afford to eat dirt and take no sickness precautions at all. People with weaker immune systems – those who need to build up immune systems – can’t because who has time to deal with all that sickness.

  100. David January 15, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Donna, as a pediatrician, I can assure you that the amount of illnesses Sarah described is VERY normal in young children who are out and about in the world. Here is a quote from the AAP:

    ” It is normal for young children to have six to eight upper respiratory tract infections and two or three gastrointestinal infections each year. Children in school and day care can often have more (often called day care syndrome). As your child gets older, his immune system will naturally strengthen and he will get sick less often.”

    There are rare kids here and there who hardly ever get sick with no precautions to food or cleanliness. But those are few and far between and have to do with genetics. I applaud Sarah for making healthy changes to her family’s hygiene. If more parents were like her, there would be far less sickness in this country. I can always tell the moms who feed their children healthy, whole foods and follow proper cleanliness. They are the ones I don’t see very much. 😉 So if your children stay well despite healthy choices, that’s wonderful, but don’t assume the ones who do get sick have weakened immune systems. They are not weakened. Just normal.

  101. Marion Ros January 15, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Hi ‘Germ Guy’!

    The ‘germ theory’ (the one that says that a bit of dirt is good to build up the immune system of your child) had, a couple of years ago, sprouted off a new shoot; the Helminthic theory, which has spawned the Helminthic therapy. I wonder if you could give your opinion?

    In short, it was suggested that there was a clear link between the absense of intestal parasites (worms) and the occurrance of asthma. In Third World countries, intestal parasites are the norm and asthma hardly occurs (although the people in Third World countries have bigger things to worry about than asthma!). In First World countries, intestal worms were still rife until a couple of decades ago, but with the germphobia, parasites became more and more the exception instead of the rule.

    From wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminthic_therapy

    “While it is recognized that there is probably a genetic disposition in certain individuals for the development of autoimmune diseases, the rate of increase in incidence of autoimmune diseases cannot be explained by genetics alone. There is evidence that one of the primary reasons for the increase in autoimmune diseases in the industrialized nations is the significant change in environmental factors over the last century. Environmental factors include exposure to certain artificial chemicals from industrial processes, medicines, farming and food preparation. It is posited that the absence of exposure to certain parasites, bacteria and viruses is playing a significant role in the development of autoimmune diseases in the more sanitized Western industrialized nations.

    Lack of exposure to naturally occurring pathogens and parasites may result in an increased incidence of autoimmune diseases. This is consistent with the hygiene hypothesis. A complete explanation of how environmental factors play a role in autoimmune diseases has still not been proposed. However epidemiological studies, such as the meta analysis by Leonardi-Bee et al., have helped to establish the link between parasitic infestation and its protective role in autoimmune disease development.

    Some recent research appears to confirm that the central tenet of the hygiene hypothesis is true — that parasites, and in particular helminths, have shaped the evolution of at least parts of the human immune system, and even the genes responsible for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease — and provides further evidence that it is the absence of parasites, and in particular helminths, that has caused a substantial portion of the increase in incidence of diseases of immune dysregulation and inflammation in industrialized countries in the last century.

    Although the mechanism of autoimmune disease development is not fully defined, there is broad agreement that the majority of autoimmune diseases are caused by inappropriate immunological responses to innocuous antigens, driven by a branch of the immune system known as the TH1 type immune response. Extra-cellular antigens primarily trigger the TH2 response, as observed with allergies, while intracellular antigens trigger a TH1 response. The relationship between these two types of immune response is a central theme of the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that there is a regulatory action between the two types of response. However, the observation that allergies and autoimmune response are increasing at a similar rate in the industrialized nations appears to undermine the hygiene hypothesis.

    A refinement of the hygiene hypothesis, which overcomes this apparent contradiction, is the “old friends hypothesis.” The old friends hypothesis modifies the hygiene hypothesis by proposing that T regulator cells can only become fully effective if they are stimulated by exposure to microorganisms and parasites that have low levels of pathogenicity, and which have coexisted universally with human beings throughout our evolutionary history. This theory has recently been given more credibility by a study demonstrating the impact of infectious organisms, and helminths in particular, upon genes responsible for the production of various cytokines, some involved in the regulation of inflammation, in particular those associated with the development of Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease.

    The hygiene hypothesis proposes that appropriate immune response is in part learned by exposure to these microorganisms and parasites, and in part regulated by their presence. In the industrialised nations, humans are exposed to somewhat lower levels of these organisms. The development of vaccines, hygienic practices, and effective medical care have diminished or eliminated the prevalence and impact of many parasitic organisms, as well as bacterial and viral infections. This has been of obvious benefit with the effective eradication of many diseases that have plagued human beings. However, while many severe diseases have been eradicated, humans’ exposure to benign and apparently beneficial parasites has also been reduced commensurately. The central thrust of the theory is, therefore, that correct development of T regulator cells in individuals may depend on exposure to organisms such as lactobacilli, various mycobacteria, and helminths.[6] Lack of exposure to sufficient benign antigens, particularly during childhood, is sometimes suggested as a cause of the increase in autoimmune diseases and diseases for which chronic inflammation is a major component in the industrialized world.”

  102. Donna January 16, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    @ David the point isn’t is that normal now; the question is has that always been the norm? Has my family always been the bearers of some mutant iron immune system – because what you describe and what my child experienced are light years apart? Or were we normal in the past? Are immune systems getting weaker such that all that sickness is now normal but would have been considered sickly in the past? Many researchers believe the latter. That although all that sickness is considered normal now, it exceeds that experienced by prior generations (although there was clearly more serious illness that has been now been irradicated with vaccines).

  103. hineata January 16, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    Wow, these comments have been amazing! I personally err on the side of things being genetic, and just ‘good luck’ or no, although I realise I am not being very scientific. Of my three kids, the eldest and the baby (now nearly eleven, sadly….) have very occasional allergic reactions to the odd thing, e.g. strawberries, some types of tomato sauce (very rarely). They are otherwise so healthy that the baby almost lost her place on the doctor’s patient list, LOL! ‘Midge’ has been sickly, for want of a better word. Between the ages of 3 and 5 she was at the doctor’s almost every fortnight – it got so bad that she would cry every time we drove past his surgery and didn’t go in, as he was one of her bffs! (She is growing out of it, only at the doctor’s 5 or 6 times last year). Except for the fact that Midge was stuck inside (in bed) a lot because of illness, the three kids have had the same germ environment.

    Hubby grew up in a very germy environment (tropical Malaysia, very poor neighbourhood, 8 families to a house etc.). They played in the jungle, swam (whenever Mum wasn’t looking!) in the filthy creek nearby, and in the ocean, in spite of not actually knowing how to swim :-) . He still has allergies to several things, including almost all seafood. BTW this has never stopped him eating the stuff – I told him last time his face and throat swelled up from eating crays that he could get himself to the doctor, as he is a middle-aged man, and should jolly well know better! (Unlike peanuts, traces of which can be in many things, a footlong crayfish sitting on your plate is pretty hard to miss, LOL!). Ibid for his mother, who grew up during the Japanese occupation of Singapore/Malaysia, when survival took precedence over the environment, germfree or otherwise. She and her relatives still have allergies.

    There also seems to be a thing with lots of Asians not having the gene to break down lactose in milk – hence a lot show up with allergies in NZ, great dairy-producing country that we are (Not that we can afford to buy it these days, darn Fonterra!)

  104. David January 16, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    Donna, good question. From my own personal research and others whom I have spoken to in my profession I would have to say that the rise of allergies it is due, in part, to people spending more time indoors instead of outside. There are definitely those who would have had allergies anyways and genetics play a big role. But we also know we can decrease some allergies in some people by exposing them to minute amounts of the allergen through a shot and then gradually increasing the dose so that they are no longer quite so allergic. Some can be eliminated completely. I think when women are pregnant it can be very important to spend time outdoors, as well as eat a varied diet, as my own personal belief is that this will decrease the chances of allergies in the baby, as well. Same goes for eating a varied diet while breastfeeding. I think eating whole, unprocessed foods is also a huge factor in helping the immune system function properly. Now the other thing which I think is HUGE is how we treat illness today. I’ve been a doctor for many years and it used to be very common if a child came down with sniffles they were put to bed and stayed there until they were better. If an adult had the flu they went to bed and stayed there. They were cared for (most likely from the mother who was at home full time) and they not only got well sooner but they avoided spreading it around. hence people were exposed to less viruses and therefore got sick less often. Today, schools have such policies that kids can’t miss more than 3-5 days the whole year in some areas before they are required a doctors excuse, which many families not only can’t afford, but it’s ridiculous to bring a kid who’s throwing up to the doctors to expose everyone else just for an arbitrary excuse – I’ve had WAY TOO MANY parents who have had to do this. And it’s no better in the work environment. Many places of employment are very inflexible when it comes to sickness. They only give so many days – if any. With all the working mothers this creates more problems as they need to use them when their own kids are sick and so they drag themselves to work sick and spread the germs around so they can save their sick days. People also tend to think, “Oh, it’s just a cold. I’m not going to let it ruin my plans”, and so they go out and about and spread it to literally THOUSANDS of other people.” People used to stay home and rest when they were sick. But in our self inflicted hectic lifestyles of today, we feel we can’t slow down. Stress is higher, diets are worse, and immune systems suffer. There are rare ones who don’t – it’s genetic and awesome! Hopefully your daughter will pass on her genes to your grandkids, as well. :)

  105. David January 16, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    I also wanted to add that it is my personal belief that we are giving way too many vaccines. I think this can mess up the natural responses of the immune system, as well. I truly believe from what I have seen, that many of the learning disabilities, asthma, etc. is caused in part by overloading on vaccines. But that’s another topic, entirely. 😉

  106. hineata January 16, 2012 at 3:19 am #

    Interesting, David. One of the reasons why I have not gone back to work except casually until very recently is because we couldn’t count on ‘Midge’ doing a month without being sick, and life is easier when she can just go to bed. (Also she can’t be left alone when she’s sick as she gets delirious).

    I feel very privileged to have had the choice to do this……I’m not sure how people cope when they can’t. Not well, by the sound of it.

  107. Catherine Scott January 16, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    @ Marion Ros

    Spot on!

    As I have celiac disease am just popping outside to lick the lawn!

    I have of late also wondered whether we are all getting tubbier (except those who starve ourselves methodically and constantly) because we are no longer playing host to the horde of parasites our bodies evolved with.

  108. Catherine Scott January 16, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    Oh, and in terms of the ‘my uncle eats mud and has allergies’ observations, you have to understand what the statistics cited by doctors etc mean. They don’t mean that everyone who lived in dirt will be spared allergies, they mean that it is less likely that you will get an allergy if you have an immune system that is kept busy.

    In other words, you cannot predict what will happen to any individual, but you can predict what will happen at the population level.

    Nothing is certain in life, but looked at from the population perspective it is possible to say that your chances of something happening go up or down depending on the occurrence of relevant factors.

  109. Donna January 16, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    David –

    I definitely agree that people now see doctors way too often. Not just because of doctor’s notes but because, thanks to the miracle of antibiotics, we want an instant cure for everything that ails us. Every single time I so much a sneeze, my grandmother tells me to go to the doctor.

    I agree on the vaccines too. My daughter has the bare minimum allowed for school registration and I still would have cut some out if I could have. Kids really need a vaccine against chicken pox? It’s been awhile but I don’t remember it being that deadly of a disease; just kinda an itchy week-long rite of passage.

  110. Catherine Scott January 16, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    There was an interesting article published no that long back here in Australia, by a GP, lamenting how much of his time is wasted by having people attend the surgery to only get a medical certificate for the day(s) they took off work.

    However, yes people do die of chicken pox and it can cause very unpleasant complications, including brain infection. If caught by a pregnant woman the effects on the unborn baby can be catastrophic.

    Children with unhealthy skin e.g. eczema, can suffer very badly, well beyond a week long itchy rite of passage. My eczema afflicted son caught it when he had a cast on a broken arm and it caused him excruciating pain.

    And the herpes virus that causes chicken pox also causes shingles. Not everyone who gets chicken pox gets rid of the virus and it can lurk for years before breaking out as shingles, a very distressing illness. Even when the shingles rash goes away pain can persist for months.

    And shingles can occur in your eye – very painful and potentially blinding – or your ear – potential hearing loss and persistent vertigo.

    Oh, and the chances of developing cancer increase after a chicken pox virus infection.

    Immunisation, anyone?

  111. David January 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Catherine, I would be interested in seeing documentation that having chicken pox increases your risk of developing cancer. I certainly have never heard of such a thing. Also, yes you can develop shingles after having chicken pox. However, did you know you can also develop shingles after having the vaccine? Not only is it possible but it has happened – several times. And these are children coming down with shingles. Also, recent studies have shown that the chance of getting shingles as an adult is decreased by being exposed to children with chicken pox. In other words, by being exposed to the virus it gives our immune systems a natural boost against shingles. Well, due to mass vaccination, shingles is now rising in adults and will continue to rise. Which now means they develop now another vaccination – a shingles vaccination. But mass vaccinating adults just doesn’t happen. So shingles will continue to rise and children will only be protected for a few short years from chicken pox and will have to continue to receive boosters the rest of their lives if they hope to keep their immunity – which most probably won’t. The actual virus provides a much longer immunity – lifetime for most individuals.

  112. Donna January 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    People can die from ANY illness known to man! I’m not sure where some got this idea that all disease should be eradicated. Or that vaccinations are better for society, the immune system or the individual in the long run. Or that the entire population should be vaccinated because an otherwise mild childhood annoyance is deadly in the rare situation.

    Nor is any of this an exact science. Scientists work with the best information that they have but that can’t always take into account long-term effects as the vaccines are not used in test groups for 80 years before given to the general public. Anyone remember the measles outbreaks on US college campuses 20 or so years ago? Measles had been virtually unheard of in the US for years and then suddenly there were pockets of infected immunized college students popping up throughout the country. That was when medical science first discovered “oops, measles vaccines don’t last forever like we thought” and now every is supposed to get revaccinated at 18. Chicken pox for a child is no big deal except in the rarest of circumstances. Chicken pox in adulthood is far more likely to cause complications. I’d really hate for my daughter to find out when she’s 27 and pregnant that her chicken pox vaccine didn’t last forever (because her chicken pox exposure would have).

    Vaccines are wonderful for truly horrible diseases with widespread application. Nobody wants to bring back small pox and polio. I just have trouble accepting widespread vaccine use for generally routine illnesses that cause serious consequences in the rare circumstances. Chicken pox vaccines should fall in the flu and HPV vaccine category – great to have available for people who want them but certainly not necessary.

  113. J.T. Wenting January 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    “I admit I have some bias in this regard. If I had been a different person, I’d be taking prednisone still to treat my allergy symptoms. My doctor was convinced it was just pollen (even though the pollen counts that week were almost nill) and just prescribed a drug. But the question was raised about what has changed– and I see diet as a huge change between then and now.”

    I recognise that from my sister, who was misdiagnosed with everything from laziness (is that a disease?) to asthma to bronchitis to Pfeiffer’s disease to sleeping sickness (seriously, in northern Europe?) for over a decade.
    Turned out it was lactase alergy (milk protein), which is even more ubiquitous in our diet than is wheat (especially here, where wey powder is cheaper than wheat, and is used as filler, stiffener, etc. etc. in almost all processed foods).

    What got her diagnosed wasn’t her changing her diet (who’d think of something promoted as good for you to actually be bad?) but by chance running into a doctor who’d just visited a seminar on rare alergies where lactase alergy was one of the topics, a doctor willing to look beyond the “food pyramid” and standard charts of “symptom A means patient has disease X”.

  114. Catherine Scott January 17, 2012 at 5:49 am #

    Here’s a quote about the preventative benefits of exposing adults to kids with chicken pox. Please note the use of ‘MAY” ie this is a theory, not as yet a proven fact. What is a proven fact is that adults who contract chicken pox from a child have a very high risk of death. it’s a much worse disease in adults, as are many childhood diseases:

    ‘In the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, population-based varicella immunization is not practiced. The rationale is that until the entire population could be immunized,adults who have previously contracted VZV would instead derive benefit from occasional exposure to VZV (from children), which serves as a booster to their immunity to the virus, and may reduce the risk of shingles later on in life’

    As to cancer and exposure to the virus, there’s this;

    Sørensen HT, Olsen JH, Jepsen P, Johnsen SP, Schønheyder HC, Mellemkjaer L (2004). “The risk and prognosis of cancer after hospitalisation for herpes zoster: a population-based follow-up study”. Br. J. Cancer 91 (7): 1275–9. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6602120. PMC 2409892. PMID 15328522.

    In any case, if the virus could be if not eradicated then reduced to a very low level then all this would become moot.

    Which diseases do you think it’s okay to vaccinate against? Do you think people should still get and die from polio, smallpox, yellow fever, diphtheria, typhoid, measles, pertussis? Is it okay for some babies to born deaf and blind because their mothers contracted rubella because other peoples’ immune systems are made to man up by dealing with that virus?

    Given the myriad of organisms we encounter the immune system has plenty of chance to keep itself in good order. I do wonder whether this line of argument comes out an unarticulated puritanical impulse that preventing suffering makes people – or their immune systems – ‘soft’.

  115. JaneW January 17, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    @ Donna: Funny you should mention flu vaccines. I was so fascinated with the Vital Statistics Report that I read the whole thing, plus a couple earlier ones.

    In the past few decades, we’ve seen a decrease in age-adjusted mortality every year EXCEPT the ones with major flu epidemics. The increased death rate from bad flu seasons is statistically significant even in school aged children. I stared at that fact and I stared some more, and then I said,

    “Oh, THAT’s why the CDC is pushing flu vaccines for everyone.”

  116. Christina January 17, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    @J.T. – Casein is the protein in milk. Lactase is the enzyme that allows us to process lactose. Those without the enzyme are lactose-intolerant, not allergic. People who are allergic to milk are, as a rule, allergic to the caseins, i.e., milk proteins. Lactose intolerance can be handled by simply taking the enzyme lactase before consuming dairy products.

  117. Catherine Scott January 17, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    @ Donna

    My father likes to observe about war casualties that the casualties are never light to those who die.

    Here’s some figures for death and disability in the US from chickenpox before vaccination became routine:

    ‘Before the introduction of the varicella vaccine in 1995, approximately 4 million cases of chickenpox were reported annually, including 4,000 to 9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths. Since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine, the number of cases has dropped dramatically.

    I reckon the parents of every single one of those children who died would have jumped at the chance to save their lives via a routine jab.

    As to the adult death rate, I reckon the same applies:

    ‘Complications of Adult Chickenpox
    Chickenpox complications are more likely to occur in adults than in children. Despite the fact that adults account for only 5 percent of chickenpox cases per year, they account for a disproportionate number of deaths (55 percent) and hospitalizations (33 percent) compared to children.’

    As to measles I saw a childhood friend die of same and have worked with children with post measles encephalitis, also known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and something you do not want to happen to anyone you know.

    I’d rather that vaccination programs take a while to get just right than that sort of suffering be visited on anyone.

  118. Rachel January 17, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    But Catherine, how much has the deaths dropped? It said there used to be 100 deaths a year and now the number has dropped dramatically. By how much? 10? 25? 1? “Dramatically” doesn’t tell us how much. And you are correct that it is MUCH more serious in adults. But these vaccines wear off. Then all the kids who didn’t get it will become adults who are susceptible to it and will have to remember to get boosters – which most won’t. Then they have chances of getting much worse cases then if they had simply gotten it over with as kids and gotten a stronger immunity built up. 100 deaths per year is terrible but there are more cases of stranger kidnappings per year! And in this group, we all agree it’s still a minute enough risk to give our kids a free range childhood. Not to mention shingles is a much worse disease – you said so yourself. There are 3 times as many deaths and 5 times as many hospitalizations with it. The lack of chicken pox circulating is causing shingles cases in adults to skyrocket. After David posted about it, (read a few posts above), I googled it and the statistics are there that shingles is indeed increasing quite a bit. To me it makes more sense to let kids get chicken pox as kids and if they don’t have immunity to it by the time they are older – say 16 or 17 – then immunize them at that point to help protect them as adults. (But only if they want it.) 😉

  119. Rachel January 17, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Katherine, the cancer link you provided is associated with shingles. Not chickenpox. And the chicken pox vaccine does not stop shingles. In fact even kids are coming down with shingles now. Also, the cancer rate was slightly higher in patients that had shingles compared to patients without it. This is not surprising since cancer patients have an increased risk of catching shingles in the first place.

  120. Donna January 17, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    @ Catherine Scott

    Are you a free range parent? Because kids DO get kidnapped and murdered while free ranging and children do die in freak accidents in activities that we endorse having our children engage in. I’m sure the affected parents also spend the rest of their lives wishing that different choices had been made. Hind sight is 20/20 and there few people on the planet who don’t regret a decision that even tangentially leads to the death of another to a certain extent (and we usually refer to them as psychopaths). The risks are equally minimal so I’m not sure why exactly one risk (free ranging) is ok and the government needs to stay the hell out of our child-rearing decisions but another risk (chicken pox) is something that should be legislated to prevent anyone from choosing.

    100 deaths out of 4,000,000 cases annually (math is not my strong suit but I believe it is .0001%) is a minuscule risk for which we are choosing to immunize an entire population with no real indication of the long term costs. I’m not part of the autism-is-caused-by-vaccines bandwagon but I’m not naive enough to believe that there is no cost to the human body whatsoever to widespread immunization programs. We still don’t know all the costs as we continue throw more and more vaccines for more and more minimal risks onto small children. And lets not forget the small number of people who die BECAUSE of the vaccines. I’m not sure if chicken pox vaccines have a death figure but a small number of children die from measles vaccines (including my childhood neighbor). I imagine the parents regret the hell out of those vaccines.

    And you keep citing adult statistics. Who exactly do you think will suffer if this vaccine doesn’t provide lifetime coverage? It’s not children. Further, why are we immunizing children to prevent problems in adults? There is nothing stopping an adult from getting the vaccine. They give them at CVS to adults for $25. If I hadn’t had chicken pox in the normal course of life by 18, I’d probably consider it because I’ve known a few adult sufferers and the disease is worse in adulthood (and I spend a lot of time in jails and in the company of people in questionable health so my risks of catching any disease is higher than the general population).

    “Which diseases do you think it’s okay to vaccinate against? Do you think people should still get and die from polio, smallpox, yellow fever, diphtheria, typhoid, measles, pertussis?”

    Yes, please let’s equate a disease that paralyzed or killed over half a million people worldwide every year (polio in the 40s and 50s) and a disease that kills 100 people every year because, clearly, we have no perspective or ability for rational thought as human beings.

    I’m not opposed to vaccines being available for any disease whatsoever. If you want your child vaccinated for every disease known to man, go for it. However, vaccines for routine illnesses that are deadly in only a very minute number of cases (chicken pox, flu) or diseases that there is a small chance of infection for the general population (hepatitis) or diseases that pass in certain ways that you may or may not choose to engage in (hepatitis, HPV) should be OPTIONAL, meaning not required for school attendance. Easily transmitted diseases with serious implications for a substantial portion of the population should be mandatory. When a million people a year are dying or paralyzed and millions more suffer life long problems (polio is known to cause problems in life even for those who supposedly recovered fully), a mandatory vaccine for the entire population is called for to try to eradicate the disease totally. When 100 people die and a few thousand end up in the hospital, not so much.

  121. Donna January 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    “I do wonder whether this line of argument comes out an unarticulated puritanical impulse that preventing suffering makes people – or their immune systems – ‘soft’.”

    Nope. If I could avoid every once of suffering for my child with no negative repercussions, I’d be a happy camper. But life is not 100% cheery and a vaccine doesn’t equal getting the disease. It’s about continuing to give more and more vaccines to tiny, barely developed people for more and more minor or unlikely illnesses with no consideration, or even really knowledge, as to the costs of doing so and whether it is truly the best thing to do. Medical science seems to have one train of thought – CAN we replace this disease with a vaccine – but doesn’t seem to put any thought whatsoever into whether we SHOULD replace this disease with a vaccine.

  122. JaneW January 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    I wouldn’t call the death rate for flu a trivial matter. In 2009, about 8,000 people UNDER the age of 65 died from the swine flu outbreak. About 200,000 were hospitalized. And flu is unbelievably contagious. Thank heaven, by the end of December that year, vaccine supplies were adequate, and there was no third wave in early 2010.

    Now, I agree with about about HPV and hepatitis. While I’d vaccinate MY child against those illnesses, you have the right not to vaccinate yours. A student carrying hepatitis is not a threat to his homeroom class.

    To my mind, there’s a difference between allowing my child to play outside and allowing him to catch vaccine-preventable diseases. Both have a small, nonzero risk of serious harm, but outdoor play has clear benefits. I don’t see the BENEFIT of chicken pox or flu.

  123. Catherine Scott January 17, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    There is no benefit of chicken pox or flu or whatever. There is a measurable risk of death but some people seem happy to wear this on the grounds it will be other peoples’ kids who die, not theirs.

    Last year in India there was precisely ONE case of polio. One. Why? Vaccination.

    No-one gets small pox anymore. Why? Vaccination.

    The point is if people were routinely vaccinated against chickenpox then it too would go away and no-one’s kids would have to die of it. Ever again.

    This is why public health decisions are made on the base of large scale epidemiological studies, not personal experience/preference.

  124. Catherine Scott January 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    It has just occurred to me that maybe we regard things like chickenpox as ‘trivial’ because because they happen to kids. And kids lack status. And, so, maybe, do their diseases.

    You don’t see the sort of song dance made about breast cancer or heart disease being made about things that kids catch.

    But remember if it’s not good enough for your kid, it’s not good enough for anyone’s, and that includes death from preventable diseases.

  125. Donna January 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    @ JaneW – Swine flu and the annual flu are not actually the same thing. You can’t eradicate the annual flu. There are a large number of strains of the flu and it mutates every year. The only advantage to a flu shot is that you won’t get the flu strains contained in the shot that year. You can get any other flu strain out there though, and many people who get flu shots still get another strain of flu that year.

    “While I’d vaccinate MY child against those illnesses, you have the right not to vaccinate yours. A student carrying hepatitis is not a threat to his homeroom class.”

    How is an unvaccinated child a threat to your VACCINATED child for anything? An unvaccinated child is only a threat to other unvaccinated children. The kids could french kiss during the height of contagion and your child wouldn’t get sick.

    “To my mind, there’s a difference between allowing my child to play outside and allowing him to catch vaccine-preventable diseases. Both have a small, nonzero risk of serious harm, but outdoor play has clear benefits. I don’t see the BENEFIT of chicken pox or flu.”

    I don’t see a particular benefit to the chicken pox or flu either. I see a benefit to not being vaccinated against mild illnesses on top of all the other, and very valid, vaccines that small children face. I see minimal benefit and unknown costs to mandatory vaccinations for illnesses that in 99.9999% of the cases amount to little more than an itchy week. There’s a HUGE difference between the two things.

    And nobody has proven that there is not actually a cost to all these vaccines. That pumping bits of a multitude of diseases into the body of a very young child – diseases that individually may not be deadly but would certainly kill the child if he were unfortunate enough to suffer them all at once – is 100% positive with nothing negative. Nobody has even said that there are zero side effects to the vaccines because that’s definitely not true. The side effects from the chicken pox vaccine range from a swollen knots to month-long rashes to seizures to allergic reactions including death.

  126. Donna January 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    “There is a measurable risk of death but some people seem happy to wear this on the grounds it will be other peoples’ kids who die, not theirs.”

    That doesn’t even make sense. I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t possibly know if my child would have died from chicken pox. I assume that she has the same .0001% risk as any other kid on the planet. Understanding that my child has equal the possibility as being one of the 100 deaths, I still would have forgone the vaccine in a minute if it wouldn’t have required me to quit my job and live off welfare for the next 18 years.

    Again, perspective seems to be really lacking. Polio, small pox, chicken pox and the flu are not the same diseases and don’t necessarily need the same level of prevention. Ask my father to compare his 2 YEARS in an iron lung and a lifetime of foot and leg ailments resulting in both his legs needing to be broken and reset in his 40s due to polio as a toddler to his week of being itchy from chicken pox. Compare MILLIONS dead to 100. Yes, each of those 100 dead are tragic but we’re using a cannon to kill a fly without truly knowing the full consequences.

    “You don’t see the sort of song dance made about breast cancer or heart disease being made about things that kids catch.”

    Or maybe you don’t see the same song and dance for chicken pox because instead of a substantial rate of death and many months of agonizing treatment that practically kills you, you are talking about 100 deaths and itching. Try to get people to walk for 3 days to prevent itching or a disease with a .0001% death rate, whether adults or children. I don’t think you’d have much success. There are actually several “songs and dances” for serious life-threatening childhood illnesses. St. Jude, Jerry Lewis telethon, March of Dimes. Every time I go in the grocery store, I’m getting hit up for a dollar for some childhood illness charity. But I’m sure that cancer sufferers are happy to know that you think cancer is equal to chicken pox because I don’t know a single one who wouldn’t trade cancer for the chicken pox. PERSPECTIVE!!!!

  127. Uly January 17, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    How is an unvaccinated child a threat to your VACCINATED child for anything? An unvaccinated child is only a threat to other unvaccinated children. The kids could french kiss during the height of contagion and your child wouldn’t get sick.

    Except that vaccines, like condoms, are not 100%. There is always a percentage of the population for whom the vaccine doesn’t take, or whose immunity wears off later. (I even know of people who have had, say, measles more than once. Nothing is 100%.)

    And of course, some people are unvaccinated not due to personal choice or even religious reasons, but because they are allergic to what’s in the vaccines or have a condition that makes vaccination dangerous. This is a legitimate health risk for them, because they actually can’t get vaccinated.

  128. Sera January 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    @Donna –

    Viruses evolve very quickly as they spread. There is a reason why there are many strains of “The Cold” going around – it keeps evolving and changing, so you can get a cold every year or so.

    There is a reason why doctors want to vaccinate against as many things as possible. Every time a virus is spread around, there is a chance of it turning into something new and incredibly nasty – especially if it interacts with a different virus (someone has two viruses at the same time). Remember that whole bird flu thing? The thing that was really worrying people was it mutating into a strain that is good at passing from humans to humans (the main vector was birds to humans). We’re not talking about “eventually”, or “over a few centuries”, viruses can mutate over WEEKS – or months or years. The absolute last thing we want is for something highly contagious, like chicken pox, to develop into something really deadly, like AIDS. (Luckily for us, we’ve managed to vaccinate or eliminate most of the diseases that are both dangerous and highly contagious).

    Yes, chicken pox now is pretty meh. Irritating and unpleasant, but not dangerous to most people. However, every time it’s spread, every new human who gets it represents another chance for the virus to mutate just that bit more. This is why basic hygiene is such a great idea – the less viruses are spread around, the lower the chance of a really bad pandemic is (you’ve noticed, I’m sure, that all of these scary disease epidemics happen in poorer countries, or poorer areas of countries, where hygiene is not up to par).

    Also, your child(ren) is/are basically comfortable and healthy, yes? No cancer, no malnourishment, not spending long hours being cold or doing heavy physical labour, not in the process of recovering from a hefty bout of illness, poisoning or injury? If not, then no, it’s not going to be YOUR child that has that 0.0001% chance of dying from chicken pox or the flu. It’ll be the ones that already have precarious health or stressed immune systems that have the really nasty repercussions of getting a “harmless” virus. Flu sweeps through workplaces and schools on a regular basis and generally, nobody dies. Flu sweeps through a nursing home, and it’s goodbye to a few grandparents. Chicken pox sweeps through a school, nobody dies. A child brings it home and infects his pregnant mother, and his little sister is born deformed.

  129. kherbert January 18, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    Unvaccinated kids,without a real medical reason, are a danger to others because
    1. Not all vaccinations take
    2. Not everyone can be vaccinated due to real scientific reasons.
    3. People buying into disproven unscientific arguments are a general danger because they choose ignorance. If the “scientists” who support your position are being stripped of their credentials and facing prosecution for fraud you need to rethink your position.

    I was in the last group of kids, who were required to be vaccinated for smallpox. That was the 1 vaccination I did not receive that was required. It is contraindicated for people with my skin disorder. I was protected because my classmates were vaccinated. (This is current not just 40 years ago science. My cousin was vaccinated as 1st responder – she was told to stay away from people with my disorder. She called me to warn me, and ask if any of the young kids have the same disorder. )

    I teach at a school with aprox. 600 students 1 student does not get any vaccinations because she being treated for cancer, 1 can’t have a certain class because she is allergic to an ingredient.

    We were getting close to eliminate several of the “childhood viruses” from the world before Andrew Wakefield started passing on his false information and creating a hysteria. Now we are having epidemics again.

  130. Catherine Scott January 18, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    I have realised that the key difference here is in perspective.

    Do we make decisions that we think will benefit our kids and only our kids or do we make decisions that benefit everyone’s kids?

    By reducing the incidence of a disease that WILL kill someone’s kids, if not our own we are contributing to the well-being of the community of as a whole.

    I don’t think anyone’s kids should be allowed to die of preventable diseases, so I immunise mine to bring down the incidence of potential child-killers in the community as a whole.

    The basis of a thriving free range community is everyone looking out for everyone’s kids, not looking out only for ours with no regard for the greater good.

  131. Catherine Scott January 18, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    @kherbert That is indeed a very good reason to get rid even of the nuisance but highly contagious diseases.

    Herpes group viruses are hardy and adaptable little fellows, which should not be given a chance to do a little evolving at the human race’s expense.

  132. Catherine Scott January 18, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    @ sera.

    Oops! The very good medical reason was yours.

    But I liked @kherbert’s insights also.

  133. Donna January 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    @ Catherine – No the difference is what we value.

    You value the here and now and only the here and now. As long as no kid is dying from chicken pox right this second, the vaccine must be okay. You’re not going to think about future possibilities or whether price is worth the costs. The only thing that matters is right this second 100 children are not going to die. If 10,000 children die 20 years from now because of this choice, who cares.

    I’m thinking about the future for every kid. I believe that vaccines should be used very judiciously and not taken lightly or used for mild illnesses. To me eradicating an extremely mild illness is not worth the negatives or unknowns. Not for my child – she’s had the stupid vaccine and I can’t take it back – but for the upcoming generations.

    Look at our experience with antibiotics. In the 50s – 80s, they were the miracle drug. Doctors handed them out like candy for any minor illness that walked into their offices. Pharmaceutical companies encouraged this because they made more money. Nobody thought it was a problem (or didn’t care because they were making money) and nobody thought this would come back and bite us in the ass. We’ve now been bitten in the ass. We have antibiotics that were so overused that they now are completely useless. There are many strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria, including serious diseases like MRSA and TB, and those will continue to grow as bacteria mutates to combat the antibiotics in existence. At some point, we could be in a place where there are no useful antibiotics anymore. Now people are dying and being disfigured from antibiotic-resistant bacteria thanks to people who used antibiotics for minor (and probably not even bacterial) illnesses in previous decades. But, hey those people felt better and we shouldn’t think about how our actions impact future generations.

    We don’t know if there is a tipping point with vaccines, just like nobody ever suspected that throwing antibiotics at every sneeze would be a problem. We don’t know if there will be a point where the human body rebels from all these vaccines. If there will be a point when vaccines stop working and make matters worse. If there will become a point when all these vaccines start interacting with each other in negative ways. If there will be some vaccine for a serious illness that arrives later that can’t be given if you’ve had the chicken pox vaccine. They say that the true sign of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. I think that is where we are with vaccines. We’ve learned nothing from antibiotics. We’re going to keep throwing vaccines at any remote and/or minor illness thinking it’s no big deal until we get bitten in the ass.

    Vaccines should be used, and only used, for serious illnesses. This is NOT for my child. My child is old enough that she is not going to be affected by new vaccines added to the mix. This is for my grand children and great grandchild and your children and grandchildren. If I considered solely what was in the best interest of my child, I’d have her vaccinated to the hilt so she never gets sick. I’d put her on antibiotics every time she sneezes too. But neither is what is best for society.

  134. Donna January 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Also, don’t forget who pushes making these vaccines and making them mandatory. Doctors weren’t jumping up and down for a cure for chicken pox. This was not considered a plague that needed to be solved. In the 40s and 50s, there was a race to solve the plague of polio. Many competing researchers were trying to come up with a vaccine or cure because it was a serious problem that needed to be solved. Yes, there would be a huge financial benefit to the people who solved the problem, but everyone agreed that the problem needed solving, money was just the motivation to get many minds working on it. A similar thing happened with AIDS, although not with the success obviously as there is still no vaccine.

    In the case of chicken pox, nobody was screaming for a solution for chicken pox. A pharmaceutical company decided to find a vaccine because there was A LOT of money in it and has since pushed to make it mandatory because there is a HUGE AMOUNT of money in it being mandatory. The greater good was not the motive. Finding a marketable vaccine was the motive.

  135. Catherine Scott January 19, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    Arguing by analogy does not prove the point. Overuse of antibiotics causes problems because of organisms’ ability to become resistant.It does not ‘prove’ that other medical practices will go the same route.

    It’s possible to think up all kinds of potential harms but these need to be tested against the evidence.

    Mass immunisation programs are now very old indeed (in operation since the 1950s) and there’s been plenty of time to see what happens next. There is no evidence of mass ill-effects. There is a lot of evidence of benefits, including a decrease in the US by 90% of hospitalisations and deaths from chickenpox since vaccination began. If it turns out that protection wanes, then re-vaccinate at the appropriate time rather than go back to the mortality, morbidity, cost and anguish for those who end up or see their kids end up in hospital from a preventable cause.

    I just don’t think people should die who don’t have to. And I don’t think a virus from a nasty and inventive group, like herpes, should be allowed to continue evolving.

    In terms of the dark plots of evil Big Pharma the chickenpox vaccine was created by Japanese professor of health, Michiaki Takahashi in 1974.

    As to the human body rebelling against vaccines, well, we are all constantly exposed to multiple germs and their products. They live in and on and all around us. Why are the live attenuated, heat killed or fragments of bacteria and viruses in vaccines in any way special EXCEPT that they are in vaccines? What makes them different, except how we categorise them in our heads? That some people don’t like it, feel uneasy about it is not proof that this practice is harmful.

    We keep talking about chickenpox as a meh sort of childhood illness that it’s okay for kids to get. Let’s ask the kids. Well, someone did. Kids who had recovered form the disease recently were asked whether they’d rather have the pox or the jab. They said the jab. It’s not a very pleasant illness that usually lasts in total four to five weeks, including the incubation phase during which kids are unwell to some extent or another.

    And for those concerned about threatened species, gorillas and chimpanzees also suffer from chickenpox.

    If we don’t want to save people, let’s spare the gorillas.

  136. Cheryl W January 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Ok, so maybe I am selfish.

    I don’t want my kids to have a week and half to two weeks of itching, oatmeal baths, fevers, and potential infection from the one they itched raw that is going to leave a permanent scar on their cheek. (That would be bigger than the scar that I took them to get stitches for.)

    I also don’t want to miss 6 weeks of work (or life,) while I wait for those sores to scab over enough that they can go back to school. Yes, 6 weeks. Because I have 3 kids. And dumb luck says they won’t get it all at the same time, unless I expose them all to each other. And what is worse than one kid with the pox? 3. With fevers. Up all night. Even if they all get it the same time, then it is about 3 weeks from the time the first has it to the time the last is recovered. If I am lucky. I hated every minute of chicken pox. Mom nagging me to stop itching. Grandma telling me I will have scars and the need to scratch all day long!

    Am I selfish? I sure am. Just like I don’t like being up all night from asthma attack brought on by the flu, so we get the flu shot. And you know, my youngest fought shots big time until we ended up in the hospital because he couldn’t breath. Now, he tells everyone that he would rather have that shot than to be scared that each breath is his last.

    But, if you don’t want to get the shots, that is fine. I don’t have to deal with your sick kids. I might not be too happy if I am your boss though. So sure, work from home, while caring for that sick kid. Your choice. Not really easy though.

    But, sarcasm aside, since the shots came out, I have seen 1 kids with chicken pox. She was late getting her vax due to being sick during her check up. She was 2, and the sibling of my daughter’s friend. When I was in college, I worked at a large day care. Every year, 1/4 of the kids got sick. Same with my brother and sister’s kinder and 1st grade. (They were much younger, so I remember.) But my daughter;’s kinder and 1st grade? Not one kid out with the pox. And yes, I would know because CA sends home a note every time a kid has a communicable disease. Saved learning time and work time alone make this vaccine valuable. Especially if you are family that lives pay check to pay check.

  137. Catherine Scott January 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    @ CherylW
    Yep, I am selfish in exactly the same way, even while seeing immunisation as a civic duty.

    My first three kids got the pox because there was no available vaccine. Very unpleasant for them and, as it was one after the other and there were some complications and weakened immune system from same led to a serious of infections (eg gastro, bronchitis), I had months of worry, stress and disruption to my casual-stagger from one short term contract to another job. Lost wages I couldn’t afford to lose.

    It was worse for a friend who had five kids who caught it in the same epidemic. Her baby got it first then one after another the others got it until the baby caught it again because she was too little to mount a proper immune response. My friend was out of commission for five months.

    When the vaccine arrived here I queued up to pay to have the youngest of mine get the jab, because it had not been made part of the regular immunisation schedule.

  138. Rachel January 20, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    Ok, Catherine. Now I understand why you are so pro vaccine. You are a working mother who had children who reacted unusually to chicken pox. For MOST children it is a week long illness. That’s it. No complications or immunity problems. As for your friend who had a baby catch it twice, it is almost unheard of. These are NOT usual cases. Since your kids had a hard time with it and their immune systems seem to be a bit on the weak side, it makes total sense to get them vaccinated. MOST of the time, though, healthy kids who are well cared for at home after coming down with chicken pox will be back at school/outside play in a week to week and a half and none the worse for the chicken pox. Also, for those of you who think flu shots prevent the flu, it would do you well to do a bit of research. For starters, the flu shots are composed of the last years flu virus. Not any new ones that pop up. You also might be interested in some real research on the matter. Here’s a great article:


  139. Catherine Scott January 20, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Please also accept that I regard it as a moral duty to immunise and prevent the spread of infectious disease. I have said repeatedly that it is not a decision that is just about my kids.

    Nor can it be put down merely to my kids having a rather over active (allergy prone) immune system. And eczema is scarcely a rare condition and all kids with it are prone to have a worse time from chickenpox, more likely to get secondary skin infections etc.

    I’m starting to get a bit annoyed with the moral subtext of this argument. Let’s put it right out in the open.

    There’s the ‘iron clad sign of morally superior immune system’ and then there’s the ‘weak woozy’ one.

    Important public health decisions should not be made on the basis of private estimations of the moral tone of one’s family’s immune system as compared to all the rest of us weaklings, who presumably deserve what we get.

  140. Rachel January 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    No one is saying you or anyone else doesn’t have the right immunize or that if you have weaker immune systems it makes you a weaker person. :( Not at all, in fact. I’m sorry you took it that way. You can’t help what kind of immune system you are born with, any more than you can control what color hair or eyes you have. It’s just genetics. There are things you can do to strengthen what you are given, but no matter what you do, there may be nothing that will keep a certain person from getting sick. The big point some of us are trying to make is that immunization should be a FREE CHOICE and not a requirement. It shouldn’t be a requirement for school that you have to opt out of. It should be a personal choice for each family. And we shouldn’t judge those who choose not to immunize or wish they didn’t have to and think that they are failing society as a whole. We all have to make choices based on our own beliefs and research. There may not even be a “right” answer that we can know for sure. Consequences can be long term for either choice and we need to be able to allow each other the freedom to choose.

  141. Sera January 21, 2012 at 12:13 am #


    And once again, the anti-vax populace stick their heads up and demonstrate to the world that there are still people happy to believe that their ignorance and “gut feeling” is just as good as other peoples’ verified science.

    Do you know what a virus is, Donna? Do you know how they work? Your comparison to bacteria would suggest that you don’t, so I’ll give you a very simple rundown:

    There is actually debate at to whether or not a virus can actually be considered to be “alive” (like a bacteria or tapeworm), or simply a very complex harmful chemical (like a poison). Viruses cannot metabolise (grow or make more stuff) and cannot reproduce (make copies) – they need to infect a host cell and use that cell’s metabolic and reproductive functions in order to make more virons. A virus is basically a genome (DNA or RNA – depending on what kind of virus) in a capsule. Some also carry a few enzymes (biological chemicals that carry out small, specific functions). That’s it. Box, genetic material, a couple of tools.

    Compare this to a bacteria. Bacteria can metabolise and reproduce by themselves, they just need food, maybe warmth and protection, etc. Bacteria do not get inside your cells and do not use other cells’ functions. Because bacteria are entire cells with their own metabolisms, you can add chemicals to their environment which interfere with their metabolisms and kill them. Because of this fact, bacteria that survive antibacterial drugs can reproduce a new strain that is resistant. None of this is applicable to vaccines for viruses, because these are NOT methods wherein a metabolic process is interfered with – they are methods where the body is stimulated into producing antibodies that very specifically and effectively destroy viruses.

    But wait, there’s more.

    Because a virus is just a box with some genetic material in it, its life cycle involves going into the host cells, and having that bit of genetic material screwing around inside your cells. I don’t think you need to know much to realise that having a bit of DNA or RNA that is not your own, hanging around inside your cells and using all of the biological equipment in there as if it WAS your own, is incredibly dangerous and has a LOT of negative potential. Because of the way viruses are structured and reproduce, there is a high “error rate” in the way that the new viral genome copies are made. This means that they mutate and evolve all the time, regardless of what we do. Bacteria and parasites don’t come even close to the rate of evolution that viruses display. Bacteria and parasites can be made to evolve when we try to treat them and fail. Viruses will mutate at random regardless of what we do – not that we can really do much, as I’ve explained.

    There are even viruses that have tools to write their own genetic material into YOUR DNA. I’m not even kidding, that’s exactly what HIV and Hep B do. Your own DNA, right now, actually contains the genetic remains of this type of virus – which evidently at some point in the past attacked humanity, and humanity survived. Some other viruses can also do the opposite – copy some of your genetic material into its own.

    Now you know a bit about viruses and how they work, you can actually come to informed conclusions.

    Making arguments from a point of no knowledge is ridiculously stupid. You’ll notice that all of your arguments are actually based on ignorance – “we don’t know”, “in the future” etc. Look at what knowledge we DO have. We DO know that viruses like chicken pox and the flu kill people, hospitalise people, and cause deformations in fetuses – even if the numbers aren’t huge. We DO know that there is a very low rate of negative reactions to vaccines, and very few of them result in death. We DO know that viruses mutate quickly and can be extremely dangerous. These are points of knowledge. Also, this is 2012. Women can vote, all races are considered equal,
    and we DON’T go around injecting things into children without that thing having been very stringently evaluated and tested beforehand. Believe it or not, the medical science community has learned from its past mistakes, and works very hard to ensure that its new cures and preventatives are not the next Thalidomide.

    And no, Rachel, immunisations should not be a “FREE CHOICE”. This is largely due to the fact that this choice belongs to YOU, but does not affect you. The people who get it in the neck as the result of YOUR idiocy will be your child, his classmates, and then his classmates’ families. The message is simple – if you’re going to send your child to a concentrated facility of children, do not allow him to catch, distribute, and perpetuate diseases through that facility. The people who get hurt the worst will be the very old, the very young, the sick, the weak and the pregnant. You’ll be doing your bit to keep the virus alive, to continue hanging around the world, making people sick, and killing a few each time it goes around, rather than wiping it out, as we did with smallpox. All this based on your gut feeling that it “might” turn out to have some negative effects in the future. Again, position based on what you DON’T know, trumping what you DO know.

    Honestly, if I believed in creatures like God and Satan, I’d swear that people who insist that vaccines are bad were working for a Satan-like being.

  142. mollie January 21, 2012 at 2:20 am #

    “Believe it or not, the medical science community has learned from its past mistakes, and works very hard to ensure that its new cures and preventatives are not the next Thalidomide.”

    Sera, I really enjoyed your layperson-friendly explanation of how viruses are different from bacteria, the ways that supports understanding and shared reality. This sentence about Pharma, the FDA, and Western medicine as a community has me shaking my head, though. Anti-depressants come to mind.

    It’s a fascinating discussion here, the idea of “protection” on the level of DNA. What I’m coming away with is that we are all doing our very best to support well-being and health, with the consciousness we’ve got. Vaccinated or not, I’ve got no enemies. No one and nothing is against me.

  143. Elizabeth January 21, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    I don’t appreciate the hateful remarks either, Sera. Take a look at this article:


    It shows a very large pediatrician’s practice of 35,000 kids who are NOT vaccinated and NONE of them have autism – except for the few who were already vaccinated before switching to his practice. They also have VIRTUALLY NO CASES of asthma. The doctor who opened the practice had a son who was damaged by vaccines and developed autism from the results of his 15 month old vaccines. It’s hard for a person with any sort of logic to ignore such a huge “unofficial case study”. Of course the studies run by government and pharmaceutical companies say vaccines don’t cause these things. There is a lot of money at stake in vaccines…. Now do I believe every child will be affected? Absolutely not. But it is a bit like playing russian roulette. As for me and my family, we live out in the country, homeschool, and live a VERY healthy lifestyle. We practice extended breastfeeding, whole organic foods from our farm, get plenty of fresh air and exercise, so our odds are very low of contracting any of these diseases. So our choice is to wait until our kids are older teens/young adults and have a blood tilter done on them. That will show what immunities they may have already picked up, and then vaccinate for the ones that would be be important/beneficial to get. At this point their systems will be able to handle more without such a great risk of effects and the immunities will be there through at least their young adulthoods when pregnancy risks are greatest. (If you think you are still protected against many of the diseases you were vaccinated against as kids, you may want to get checked out by a doctor. Most likely you aren’t and need to be re vaccinated, because unlike the real disease, the immunities don’t last more than a few years). I just wish more studies would be done to make the ingredients safer for little bodies. :/

  144. Uly January 21, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    It’s hard for a person with any sort of logic to ignore such a huge “unofficial case study”

    Sure it is if you know anything about the subject.

    Here’s my unofficial case study: Almost all my direct ancestors are on the autistic spectrum. This includes my grandfather, who *was* autistic (not just the broader autistic phenotype), and who certainly was *not* given the MMR in childhood, being born much too early for that. That absolutely includes me – my mother swears she knew before she even left the hospital with me when she was born.

    Kanner’s original case study? He noticed at the time that the children he was looking at all had parents who showed autistic traits. This was the root of that idiotic “refrigerator mother” nonsense that came out later, but Kanner’s conclusion was that autism is hereditary.

    That article starts out with the old canard about how the Amish don’t vaccinate and don’t have autistic children. Quite aside from the fact that the Amish have a very unusual genetic profile, neither of those “facts” is remotely true. They do vaccinate at the same rate as everybody else, and they certainly have autistic children. (They may be less inclined to diagnose their children, managing them within the community, but people working in that area who know what they’re looking at report that no, they have as many autistic kids as anybody else.)

    So really, just based on that, I highly doubt that article (by a popular news source, which is NOT the same as a reputable medical or scientific journal. Popular news really can’t be trusted to get scientific information right) is even slightly accurate.

    *reads a little more*

    If I have a child with autism come in, there’s no communication. It’s frightening. You can’t touch them. It’s not something that anyone would miss.”

    Nonsense. Most autistics are not completely unable to communicate or be touched. He’s basically saying he hardly sees any cases of “classic, low-functioning autism” – but anybody who pays attention notices that the so-called “explosion” happened right after the diagnostic criteria for autism was changed and Asperger’s was added to the DSM. What a surprise, you make the diagnostic standard applicable to more people, and all of a sudden more people get diagnosed as autistic. *eyeroll*. The fact is that most children being diagnosed today would not have been diagnosed 30 years ago. I know! My parents took me around to doctors trying for an autism diagnosis, but back then they weren’t giving them out to children who could talk. And that really seems to be the standard this doctor is using, that autistic kids don’t talk.

  145. Sarah January 21, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Uly, I have close connections to the Amish in PA and OH, and they DO NOT vaccinate for the most part. At least the conservative don’t. I believe I read that 6% do, but I would hardly call that vaccinating. :) (They also don’t have autism. I don’t think anyone ever said that vaccinations are the sole and only cause of autism. Just that they increase it so that it is no longer considered as “rare” as it was with your family, I’m sure.) Maybe you know of some Amish that do vaccinate? I don’t know. But the ones I’ve had the pleasure of being around do not.

  146. Uly January 21, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Really? Because every place I go shows me new studies debunking that little bit of story, saying that a good 65% of Amish overall vaccinate. It may well be regionally based.

    As far as “they don’t have autism” goes, unless you really have a lot of experience with autism, I don’t particularly trust that assessment. As I said, most of the kids getting diagnosed today (and creating the statistics used today) would not have been diagnosed 30 years ago, and really aren’t like most people think.

    It’s entirely possible to be autistic and spend your whole life undiagnosed, to the point where people who don’t know much about the subject don’t realize it applies to you.

  147. Donna January 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Sera –

    I am not anti-vaccine; I’m anti-stupid vaccines and I think chicken pox is a stupid vaccine. An opinion that I’m entitled to. As you are entitled to yours whatever it is.

    I wouldn’t know what your opinion is as I didn’t read anything your wrote after the second sentence. If you would like to engage me in a discussion, or write something I will bother to read, I’d suggest you do so without trying to be condescending, rude and immature. Hopefully, you will learn before you graduate college that your knowledge and opinions are completely irrelevant if nobody bothers to read them because your writing sucks.

  148. Sera January 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Donna –

    You are not entitled to several the particular opinions that you have stipulated in this thread because they are not based on fact. They are based on fiction. You are not “presenting your opinion”. You are making up stories. You are telling lies. This is why I believe that being rude to you in this case is justified – I really do think that you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Some of the things you have said would be similar to telling somebody that if they let their children outside alone, they might be eaten by dinosaurs. It’s simply impossible and incorrect.

    If you choose not to trust the scientists who research these sorts of things, at least believe in something real (such as different scientists or your own observations), rather than making up your own fantasy to fill the gap in knowledge, and then presenting it as if it is fact.

    The trouble is that the layman does not generally know enough to be able to tell the difference between a verified scientific fact, or somebody making up something that “sounds right” or “makes sense”, but is in reality preposterous. The only reason I know the basics is because, as a chemistry graduate, I shared some basic first-year cellular biology classes with other science students. I can see through some of the more basic-level bullshit, but the vast majority of people can’t even do that – they have only the choice to believe in something someone else tells them, and if that happens to be wrong, or even outright crazy, tough luck for them.

    Hence why making up your own “opinion” on reality is just downright evil and wrong.

  149. Christina January 21, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    @Donna – I think you did yourself a disservice by not reading past Sera’s second sentence. It was one of the best explanation of viruses in layman terms that I have run across in a long time. I think your dismissal of valid arguments against your “chicken pox vaccines are stupid” stance is no better than any of the “rudeness” you ascribe to Sera.

    I think it may be time for all of us to let this thread go.

  150. Kate January 22, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    “I don’t think you need to know much to realise that having a bit of DNA or RNA that is not your own, hanging around inside your cells and using all of the biological equipment in there as if it WAS your own, is incredibly dangerous and has a LOT of negative potential.”

    But people get viruses and get over them EVERY DAY. It’s not that dangerous 99% of the time. Also, EVERYTHING I’ve read says that vaccines include aborted fetal tissue and even animal tissue which means you are already are getting someone else’s DNA inside of you. Which brings us back to the unanswerable question of whether ALL these vaccines are necessary or even harmful…….. You are right, Christina. We are not going to agree and so time to drop the conversation.

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  152. Warren September 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    When my oldest was 9, she is now 21 healthy and in University, I caught her arguing with a woman around my age, in the park. She had been walking with our dog, a German Shep. I hurried over, to see the lady trying to take my daughters frozen yogurt cone away from her.

    I yelled at her from about 10 yards away. This woman turned on me and said, “She has to throw it out.” When I asked what the heck she was trying to do…..”Your girl let the dog lick her cone.”

    She was so disgusted with my, “So what.” She still tried to take it from my daughter. Only when I said I would have her arrested did she back off. “She’s going to get really sick, from that things (our dog) germs.”

    She threw her arms up, and stormed off. LOL, my kids have shared yogurt, ice cream, water, sandwiches and whatever, for years, and not one problem. The only rule was no chocolate, for the dog’s health.

    People think I am nuts when I remind them, they are better off sharing their ice cream with the dog, instead of a human, because a dog’s mouth is cleaner, so to speak.

  153. Brianna S November 26, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Idiocracy is a eugenicist’s favorite movie. Fuck eugenics and the subtle support for eugenics that is rampant throughout our society.