Germaphobia and Superbugs

Reports from around the world indicate an increase of drug resistant bacteria. This increase has made the World Health Organization comment very strongly on how our fear of germs is creating a world where we really need to be afraid once again.

Grandpa: When I was growing up, my mother let us “get dirty.” We played in the dirt, made mud pies and otherwise did what kids do when there is a mess to be made. My grandfather would nod and say, “You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.” It seemed odd then, but not now. I believe this practice helped us build healthy immune systems.

The Antibacterial Craze: Everywhere you look on the cleaning aisle and on the soap aisle the word “antibacterial” is prominent. To a degree, antibacterial is good. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to forget to clean his or her hands before surgery. However, if you’re constantly killing all of the bugs, they are going to fight back…mutate. The bugs want to survive just as much as we do.

About Antibiotics: It is tempting to demand antibiotics from our doctors every time we get sick. We’re so used to them working on infections it seems they should be good for everything. Once upon a time, the doctor would have complied. Now we can see the error of our ways. Like all bacteria, those that cause infections are mutating. Under some conditions doctors are even refraining from prescribing antibiotics in an infection in order to prevent the problem from getting worse.

Following Instructions: This is another area in which we humans are helping create superbugs. Some of us stop taking antibiotics before the prescription has been finished. After all, if we feel better we’re well, right? Wrong. The immune system may be fighting back, but the bacteria are still present. Finish the course so you can know you are rid of the bug.

What should we do now? I don’t recommend adults go out and make mud pies, but there are things we can do. Unless certain conditions exist, avoid using antibacterial products. By all means use the cart wipes. If you’ve been in contact with something that could make you ill, 60% alcohol hand sanitizer gel might be wise. Antibacterial dish soap is wonderful if someone in the family is ill. Other than that, use regular soap and water.

If you see signs of an infection, talk to your doctor. When you see the doctor, make sure the staff knows you are ill. Depending on what is happening you may need to wait away from other patients. If the doctor prescribes medication, take it as prescribed. If you don’t get over the infection, go back to the doctor.

If your doctor doesn’t prescribe antibiotics on the first visit, ask what to look for in case the situation gets worse. Viruses can cause infections and an infection could get worse. Follow the instructions given…including rest, plenty of fluids and staying home.

While scientists are working on antibiotics to rid us of the superbugs we have, we need to avoid making more superbugs. With your help, that’s possible.