Shameless Purell

From the Purell e-mail blast I just got:

Your little ones are headed back to school and so are millions of germs!  

I’m leaving aside all the nasty things I want to say about how we are MADE of germs and must get ACCUSTOMED to germs and when did start treating everyday life like lung surgery? But instead I will leave you with my son’s remark:

Oh, the germs took the summer off? – L.

 

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

What’s The Difference Between a Sack Lunch & a Recently Beating Heart?

Hi Readers — Nothing, as you know, is safe enough for children. Not notebook paper (as we saw a few posts below). Not toddling (as evidenced by the existence of the ThudGuard). And not old-fashioned spoons (which explains the kiddie spoons that change color when food is “too hot.”)   And now, it turns out, not even a home-packed sack lunch is safe enough. Or at least, that’s how this story was reported:

9 Out of 10 Preschoolers’ Lunches Reach Unsafe temperatures

According to this MSNBC account, “Unsafe,  as the researchers defined it, was anything that sat for more than two hours between 39 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.”

So basically it sounds like “unsafe” = any food that sat for more than two hours in room temperature almost anywhere on earth (and possibly Mars). Despite the fact that most of us adults went to school carrying sandwiches  we kept in our clammy lockers from arrival till lunch time — and are alive today — this became a huge news story, carried by TV and newspapers thrilled to have a new thing to warn parents about, a new everyday danger they must protect their children from.

….Even though, as it turns out,  the lukewarm lunches don’t mean that kids are actually getting sick. That was one of the fine points much further down in the stories, after the dire IS YOUR CHILD’S LUNCH UNSAFE?-type headlines.

So — what is the point? We should start worrying about sack lunches that have never been shown to hurt children just because a rather strange study of a non-problem found that there COULD be a problem if only there was one?

And yet, the press could not stop itself: “Should Parents Bag the Brown Bag?” asked the once-unflappable Boston Globe, as if one study proving something that every parent pas personally witnessed as non-threatening should now throw us all for a loop. It’s like that old joke, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your own lying eyes?”

Yes, I suppose it is better NOT to serve lukewarm yogurt and listless lettuce. But when, as the researchers determined, “just 1.6 percent of the perishable yogurts, cheese slices, carrot sticks, bologna and other items were at the proper temperature when pre-schoolers were ready to eat them,” it appears that 98% of everything kids eat from home is a dire threat, even if their parents packed their lunches with an ice pack. Yes! Forty percent of the 700 lunches surveyed contained a lovingly packed (and apparently useless) ice thingy.

Not to go to the old, “We ate curdled pudding and we LIKED it!” saw, but now parents are being asked to transport their kids’ lunches thusly, according to boston.com:

The researchers recommend brown bagging it and transporting the bag to the day care center in a small cooler filled with ice packs. Parents should then take the brown bag out of the cooler and put it directly into the center’s refrigerator — hopefully there is one and it’s set at the right temperature.

Excuse me — isn’t that the procedure formerly reserved for ORGAN TRANSPLANTS?

And, by the way, doesn’t this advice pre-suppose no kids are walking to school with their parents? Because who is going to lug along a cooler stuffed with ice packs?

My friends: This is how society changes. Not with a cataclysmic coup, but with thousands of little “tips” that trade one kind of lifestyle (walking to school, dropping a kid off ) with another (driving to school, coming inside, overseeing the lunch transfer).

And we wonder why parents feel so overwhelmed with everything they “have” to do and all the expectations for their constant involvement. When even a sack lunch is now a deathly danger, parents must be ever-present and ever on guard.

On the upside, if they ever DO have to transfer a heart or a liver, I guess they’ll have had plenty or practice.  — Lenore

Kids in grave danger from...their lunches?

And Now — A School is Banning Chapstick!

Readers — I gotta go cook a turkey, but meantime, look at this. The REASON this Cleveland elementary school is making Chapstick contraband is that kids might SHARE it:

Parents were afraid that children would share the Chapstick and spread germs,” [schools spokeswoman] Sessoms said. “By requiring written permission from the parents, parents would be aware that their children had Chapstick and would be able to remind them not to share it with other children. This would also be a way for teachers to be aware so that they could deter students from sharing it with others.”

For this same reason they have banned hand sanitizer and sunscreen.

Come to think of it, maybe I should cancel my Thanksgiving dinner. The guests might end up passing the food! That’s sharing, right? And what if, God forbid, someone accidentally picks up someone else’s glass and sips from it? Think of the danger!

It’s just not worth it. This whole “community” thing has got to go! This school is on the right track: For safety’s sake, no human contact from now on. — L.

How Can You Keep Your Child REALLY Safe From Germs?

Here’s how! Phew! All thanks to the U.K. show, “That Mitchell and Webb Look.” L.

Guess What? Purell Doesn’t Work

Hi Readers:  Time to quit pickling our kids in Purell. That’s not just MY conclusion, or even just the conclusion of Slate writer Darshak Sanghavi in this TERRIFIC piece, “How To Sell Germ Warfare.” No, it’s the conclusion of scientists who were surprised that giving free hand sanitizers (and, in one case, even Clorox Wipes) to families and schools failed to cut down on respiratory infections.

That’s because the flu, for one, spreads mostly via tiny droplets in the air. (ACHOO!!!) So touching things is only one way to catch it. Breathing — that gosh darn thing we keep doing — is the other.  Moreover, the article notes, kids touch their mouth or nose on average once every three minutes. So unless we Purell ’em 20 times an hour (which I’m sure some folks are considering), all bets are off. But not all germs.

This is not to say phooey (or achoo-ey) on basic hygiene. But phooey on obsessive hygiene, especially when it seems so profit-driven. — Lenore

Kids Need Dirt. For Real! For their HEALTH!

Hi Readers — A bunch of you have been digging (har har) this story about how much protection our kids get from DIRT. This explains my philosophy of housekeeping!

Er…I mean: This explains my philosophy of childrearing. Anyway, here’s a bit of the article, by Murrray Wardrop,  in The Telegraph. (For some reason this story got more play in Britain than the U.S.):

Scientists have discovered that bacteria on the surface of the skin play an important role in combating inflammation when we get hurt.

The bugs dampen down overactive immune responses, which can lead to rashes or cause cuts and bruises to become swollen and painful.

The findings support previous research which suggests that exposure to germs during early childhood can prime the immune system to prevent allergies.

The so-called “hygiene hypothesis” has previously been used to explain why increasing numbers of children suffer allergies such as eczema and hay fever in more developed countries.

Parenting groups yesterday welcomed the findings as “a vindication of common sense” and urged parents to allow their children greater freedom to play outdoors.

Experts at the University of California at San Diego made the discovery by studying mice and human cells cultured in their laboratory.

The team, led by dermatologist Professor Richard Gallo, found that common bacteria called staphylococci, can reduce inflammation after injury, when they are present on the skin’s surface.

Prof Gallo said: “These germs are actually good for us.”

Of course, most Free-Rangers and other sensible folk suspected this all along. (And my book discusses it, too, in the chapter, “Germs, Anti-Germs & Shopping Cart Liners.”) But it’s nice when a new study comes along and explains WHY dirt and kids go so well together.

And why I’ve decided to sit here and blog rather than get out the mop. — Lenore

New Law to “Protect” Kids from Germs Would Kill Band Program

Hi Readers — Get ready to start gnashing. A bill in Massachusetts would require all schools there to “professionally” sterlize their band isntruments, according to this article in the Wicked Local Sumerville (great name!). And guess what? Only one company in Massachusetts does this.

The owner of that company, a dentist, insists that without this pricey sterilization — $20-$30 per instrument and done twice a year — children’s health is at risk. But an epidemilogist at the Mass. Department of Public Health, Alfred DiMaria,  points out in the article that:

…there has never been a documented outbreak of illness associated with shared band instruments, and it is very unlikely outbreaks have gone undetected by health departments across the country….”There is no evidence that it’s a problem. I can’t argue that it’s [not] a theoretical possibility, but we don’t really mandate things are theoretical.”

Ah, but there is the rub: Increasingly, we do. Just look at the story a few posts below this one — the one where a Florida school won’t let a child walk out of school to his or her parent’s car without an escort, just “in case” something bad COULD happen. Or look at the schools that ban tag, “in case” someone could get hurt. Look at the new Federal law insisting that every part of every item sold to children be tested for lead, just “in case” a child eats his sock, or the insole of her shoe. Look at all the park districts that have uprooted their see-saws and merry-go-rounds “in case” of an accident. “What if???” hysteria is driving us mad with unnecessary precaution.

Mind you, the Massachusetts schools already DO sterilize their instruments according to the manufacturers’ guidelines. This “professional” sterilization is just an extra, unnecessary, pricey step — one that could bankrupt some schools’  band programs.

Talk about a cure that’s worse than the disease. Particularly when there isn’t any disease to begin with. — Lenore