Do We Need Germs for Immunity

Scientists think that we do need germs for immunity. Americans have gotten so hung up on germs that we are killing all the germs and microbes that are necessary to develop a good immune system. Could it be time to do away with paper products, the antiseptic mouthwash and sanitizers that we use so freely and go back to soap, soda and vinegar to clean our homes as we did in the last century. What do you think?

Do We Need Germs for Immunity?

Germ consciousness has been hammered so deeply in the American psyche that much money has been made from this perception. In 1908, a Swiss chemist invented a flexible cellulose film that was acquired by the Du Pont Company. They named it cellophane. To the public this meant germ protection. Cellophane ads warned of the dangers of, flies, fingers, and germy food. These ads soon appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping. The Cellophane Radio Show featuring the etiquette expert Emily Post, aired in the morning just before housewives went shopping, and guess who filled their carts with cellophane.

In the 1920s Listerine made it’s appearance, named after John Lister who introduced antisepsis into surgery. Their ad featured a young woman whose hopes for a happy marriage was ruined because of halitosis, which the ad represented as a terrible condition caused by bacteria in the mouth. Listerine could help one avoid being, “always the bridesmaid and never a bride” Listerine was also recommended as a handwash to kill 17 germs carried by the hands. One ad warned mothers that they would hesitate to bathe or feed their babies if they could see the germs on their hands under a microscope. The company, of course advised washing the hands in Listerine. Sales went from $100,000 in 1920 to $4 million just seven years later.

Germ consciousness also paved the way for all the paper products made today. In 1935, paper cup manufactures warned of the dangers of unsterile drinking glasses and china which could be avoided by using paper cups and plates.

Today a growing number of researchers are saying that our increasing separation from dirt and microbes carries a serious price to pay, and may be killing us. They call it the hygiene hypothesis. The idea is that too much cleanliness is bad, and we need germs. Throughout human life we have lived with dirt and microbes since the moment we were born. Our immune system evolved pathways to protect us. If these pathways are removed (as they are being removed today with all this cleanliness) our whole immune system will backfire.

Scientists give as an example, if a child grows up without love and affection, it’s brain cells fail to make the right connections and the infant grows up mentally impaired. In the same way, our immune system will fail to develop properly, if it isn’t given the challenges it requires from birth. Scientists have noticed that in large families children have a lower rate of illness. They think it could be because older siblings bring more germs into the household and because of that fact, children develop a better immune system. It used to be that if one child had measles, neighbors children were brought in and exposed to it. When one child had a contagious disease they could be sure of plenty of company. Now we keep our children away from  contagious disease. A reversal of what out parents did.

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  1. Germs are harmful but we need some of it to build resistence. So no sense being too clean. Good article, madame.

  2. Something to think about!

  3. nice article

  4. It’s a mutual relationship, germs need us, we need germs.
    Good piece.

  5. Wonderful share. As you said, too much of cleanliness too affects sometimes, we require a certain amount of germs.

  6. We are products of the environment, how can we dissociate ourselves? A great awarenes for many.

  7. Nice sahre. I too think that we have to develop the immunity first by infecting our body, so that major disasters could be avoided.

  8. useful informations

  9. Normally my dad, a scientist himself, would agree, but now he has leukemia so must be extra careful… indeed his disease could be from exposure to chemicals, as we have seen more cancers in areas where chemicals are more common.. and the over use of antibacterial agents have made SuperBugs possible..

    GERMS DONT HURT a healthy person as much as CHEMICALS for which our body has NO defense…

  10. Felt good reading your article

    great work done!

    Thanks for the share!

    Will look forwards for more articles like this from you ! So will be visiting your page for other good articles like this one!

    Mr Arrogant

  11. Thanks for writing such a great article.
    The ads have been having a huge influence on the consumers and ironically that has only witnessed an increase in diseases and the germ attack.

    No other animal species suffers so much trouble from germs.
    It is the over-awareness to blame.

  12. There are good and and bad germs I think such as bacteria.But I can suggest that we should always eat foods that strengthen our immune system.

  13. I think we can be over cautious at times. As children of the 1950s we never even thought about germs and my brothers and I are all reasonably healthy. A thought provoking piece.


  14. nice..

  15. That’s an interesting hypothesis about the large families.

  16. Yes interesting read Ruby I think yes we need all kinds of bugs and bacteria I think well lead to believe cheers.

  17. A good read on a topic I am familiar with, I heard somebody talking about when we were young playing in gutters with mud and dirty water playing boat races.

  18. good article :)

  19. interesting article Ruby. My moto is a little bit of dirt never harmed anyone and germs do make our own bodies more able to fight back.

  20. I’m well informed, thanks Ruby.

  21. Perfect, I couldn’t agree with you more. Acquired immunity all but depends on encounter with germs against which the body reacts by synthesizing antibody.

  22. very informative post!!

  23. Good article – very interesting read.

  24. Sort of like needing to be vaccinated.

  25. again another well written article two thumbs up

  26. Very interesting study. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  27. A very thought provoking piece, Ruby,

  28. Ruby, you are so right – I totally agree that we are trying to be too germ free- I use vinegar, peroxide, and alcohol for disinfecting.

  29. I also agree, we are too hung up on germs. We don’t need all the sanitizer and disinfects. a little dirt won’t hurt us.

  30. perplexing

  31. Yep, let your toddler play in the dirt a bit. He will be stronger in the long run.

  32. I agree, as a microbiologist, I know we need a small amount of “germs” to build up a good immune system. It’s like exercise for our immune system. Without the germs, our immune system can decline. What’s also interesting is there’s new research suggesting we need to only “look” at sick people to help build our immune system. I wrote about that here:

  33. “Rub some dirt in it!” …A saying I have heard all my life…Good one, Ruby.

  34. Ruby ain’t it the truth, we all grew up with a little dirt to boot when playing and soap and water took care of the rest when we were finished. Great article.

  35. Thanks for this informative article Virility EX

  36. This is a great article. I am one of those people who are germ conscious because I do not want to catch anything. Now I see that some germs are needed. Thanks for the information.

  37. Germs are awesome, God made dirt, it don’t hurt.

  38. This is very informative,
    thanks :)

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  41. hmm interesting never though it from this perspective .. no wonder being a germ i am actually helping mankind ;)

  42. Very true. :)

  43. Well said.

    Also as we use more antiseptic, the germs that don’t get killed will become immune.

    On top of that we are killing our environment with all the disposable cups and plates.

  44. It’s known as the hygiene affect. We fixate on use antibacterials, antiseptics and every other chemical: we weaken our immune system and when a simple germ comes along, we get sick.
    The abundance of chemicals also causes bacterial resistance.
    It’s best to just stick to good old soap and water.

  45. Yes its like excess of everything is bad, even if we have too much of viral or bacterial load one could fall sick, but in the absence of germs there could be lack of resistance as they tend to be helpful in generating the immunity by triggering the immune response and generating antibodies.

    nice piece!

  46. I totally agree, living in a “glass bubble” is not the answer.
    Awesome article.

  47. Thanks for a different perspective on germs! God or whatever we believe created germs, so it would be wise to understand them better rather than just to kill them. But then again, why am I surprised, isn’t killing something we humans do so well?

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