People Know Something Isn’t Right

This comes under the title of “Yes, You Can Be Too Safe”.

The Instapundit above quotes from This Boston.com article that highlights Dr. Joel Weinstock’s theory. Protection from asthma, diabetes and even multiple sclerosis comes from exposure to, of all things, worms. Not “night crawlers”, mind you, but the same parasites that you and I were probably infected with, as children, cured by simple anti-biotics.

“We realized that one thing people always had was intestinal worms,” he said. “But in the mid-20th century we started deworming children in developed countries. So we’ve developed a theory that perhaps deworming was helping these diseases.”

Intestinal worms may be beneficial.

“I get about 5,000 e-mails a year from patients all over the world asking what to do,” he said. “People know that something isn’t right. They keep their kids in the cleanest environments and they get asthma. We get all of these things that were rare becoming common. And a lot of it comes down to hygiene. Excessive hygiene can potentially lead to disease.”

The AstroWife will tell you that this is one of my favorite hobby-horses. We’ve become, I think, a society obsessed with safety. Sometimes we try to hide our obsession with the camouflage that it’s “for the children”, but I see it as simple fear. What’s missing is an understanding that safety is not free, not free of costs, not free from side effects and not free from Murphy’s Law.

As an example, seat belts save lives – that’s axiomatic. But what’s less understood is that seat belts take lives too. See also here, here, and here. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be rare (has the study been done?) but being a rather small guy (I stand 5″0′, well below the average height) I happen to be in a statistical class for which seat belts are not designed. In a low to moderate speed crash, it appears that I’m more likely to be injured severely by the seat belt (and oddly, by the air-bag) than without.

But back to the Instapundit, I should e-mail him. He has often, in the recent past, gently admonished people to wash their hands (most especially, in connection with the recent spate of news stores about MRSA, the super staff infection). He may indeed be correct to beg people to do so. Or not.

There has been numerous reports of MRSA for years and we probably created it by our over use of antibiotics, in animal feeds, treating kids ear infections and allowing the over the counter sale of antibiotics to farmers and horse owners.

If anti-bacteriological soaps are part of the problem (note the “if”), then so is the fact that the market is now flooded with these products. And even more so, the fact that we are getting obsessive about using them. Washing our hands with these soaps may be a major contributor to the problem.

I’ll back off from being dogmatic about this, but only half a step. When my daughter-in-law insists I use an disinfectant when around LittleStar (my granddaughter), you’re darn right I’ll comply. And I myself will insist that she wears a helmet when she learns to ride a bike. But I won’t fool myself into thinking that these things don’t come without penalty. I fear the possibility of locking my granddaughter in an antiseptic cocoon much more than than the prospect of her skinning her knee.

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