Why Your Immune System Is Weak


Mud pies. Playing with the dog. Hugging the cat. The drinking fountain. The playground. Trading food in the cafeteria. Sharing a fountain drink. Holding hands. The 5 second rule.

All of these things have one thing in common. When practiced, they spread germs and bacteria. Is this a bad thing? I mean when you think about all the nasty germs and bacteria involved in each of these things, it's really gross.

Who knows what that dog or cat has been rolling in, what sickly kid drank from that fountain… Ewww, what if the sick kid actually touched part of the fountain instead of just drinking the water as it comes out?

Oh my gosh, the playground where all those snotty little kids play, and I bet there is some blood from their cuts somewhere, too.

Trading food in the cafeteria? What if mom with messed up hair, in her old, pink, terrycloth robe, standing in her red fuzzy slippers had been up all night rushing to the bathroom has bagged that sandwich?

Why would anyone want to drink from the same straw? To prove their friendship? What if your friend was French kissing her tobacco chewing boyfriend before you go to Sonic, and she sweetly says, “Try this!” handing you the cup? Disgusting! Or what if they had been holding hands and he didn't wash his hands after taking a pee? Gag!

And the 5 second rule? Did you see that floor? What was that sticky spot of green next to the sink?

Do our bodies need to be exposed to germs and bacteria in order to boost our immune system? As gross as some of these examples are, the answer is yes. It does not mean you need to live in filth. It also means that we have no idea when we are exposed to germs and bacteria, and thank God for that or we would all be obsessive compulsive messes.

It seems that the immune system and how it works depends on its exposure to germs and bacteria, which helps us fight off many illnesses and allergies. The earlier the exposure, the better.


Over-Sanitizing to Kill Germs and Bacteria

Young parents bring home their new baby. They have cleaned and sanitized everything from the sheets for the bassinet to the bottles and nipples. Some parents believe the microwave kills germs and bacteria and will even microwave blankets, sheets, and clothing.

What is the result of all these practices? The child gets used to a near-germ-free atmosphere then goes out into the world and is hit by germs that are natural to the population but because the child has been protected from these germs, their immune system is attacked. They become ill more easily. They may be sickly most of their lives if they are constantly “protected” from germs and bacteria.

Parents need to realize there is such thing as a healthy dose of germs and bacteria. You don’t have to clean everything the child touches. Teach the child to wash his or her hands before eating. Some would say to wash hands each time after they play with their toys. No, no, no. Their immune systems are becoming stronger by being in contact with those everyday germs and bacteria. The child is building up defenses. Yes, as toddlers, everything goes into their mouth. Unless you live like pigs, there is not much need to be concerned. You do want to know what the child puts in his mouth so he won’t choke, and you want to keep all harmful cleaning supplies, litter boxes, and plants out of the child’s reach.

Being the over-protective parent is going to do more damage to your child in the long run. If your kid doesn’t eat some dirt, she’s not normal. Common sense is all that is needed.

Society's Obsession with Killing Germs and Bacteria

Wash your hands! Cover your mouth when you cough! Antibacterial hand sanitizers. Antibacterial tissues.

Are these good things to teach our children and to practice? Absolutely.

Do we take “precautions” too far at times? Yes, often.

As a high school teacher, I see kids use antibacterial hand sanitizer 3 to 4 times during a class period. The school requires teachers to keep hand sanitizer in each room. While I am sure it does help prevent illness from being spread, it also causes an unnatural fear of germs and bacteria with our students. Overuse prevents the kid from building an immunity to harmful germs and bacteria, and it seems when the cold and flu season comes along, these “over-concerned” kids are absent because they are sick.

They have become obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping clean. Some students have red, raw hands from constantly washing their hands with soap and water and/or using the alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

I have even witnessed students jumping out of the way to avoid others (who are sometimes sick, sometimes not), fearing they will expose themselves to germs and bacteria. I have seen kids who have held their breath until they get through a crowd in the hallway.

Of course, when I hear a croupy cough or see an uncovered sneeze, I have held my breath too after turning my head aside and giving the teacher directive, “Cover your mouth.”

Just using common sense without being obsessive compulsively clean will help keep us stay healthy.

How Germs and Bacteria Spread

Germs and bacteria spread simply by our breathing in and out. When I breathe out, my germs go into your breathing space.

Germs and bacteria are spread by touching anything and everything. Door knobs, pencils, computers, clothing, humans, animals, and on and on. We cannot live in a bubble. We cannot try to put our kids in a bubble.

None of us can avoid them.

Common Sense Rules

Over-protecting yourself and your children from germs and bacteria is causing more damage to the body’s immune system. Studies have shown that a healthy building of germs and bacteria in our systems help us fight illness and ward off allergies. Using common sense and allowing a natural build up to germs and bacteria will enhance the immune system. A healthier life and fewer visits to the doctor’s office will result and saved you a lot of time and money.

SHolland10 is not suggesting you ignore illness or allergic reactions. Because we cannot avoid germs and bacteria, we will sometimes become sick. Seek a physician’s help.

Common Sense, Germaphobe, or OCD

Which do you consider yourself to be?

See results without voting

Some Famous Germaphobes

Howard Hughes - he would refuse to see people because he feared their germs and bacteria.

Howie Mandel - admits to be obsessive compulsive (OCD) and continually washes his hands. He adds it to his comedy.

Donald Trump - He refuses to shake hands.

Glenn Beck - He admits he is a germaphone.

Cameron Diaz - She admits to opening doors with her elbows.

Common sense or germaphobia?

© 2012 Susan Holland

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Comments 47 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Bravo Susan! I have always believed that society over-protects against germs. I am never sick, and part of the reason for that is that I don't pay much attention to protecting myself. Germs are everywhere, as you pointed out, and I trust my body to handle most of the daily stuff. It hasn't let me down yet!

Great hub with some practical sense that many people should learn from.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Great thoughts on an icky subject. I think by over sanitizing and the over use of antibiotics, we are really hurting our immune systems. This is a great hub and well researched. Sharing!

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Touche!!!! I was just reading an article recently about over-cleanliness being related to heart disease.

I think the whole germ thing is getting way out of hand. Pretty soon we'll all be walking around like Howie Mandel .... afraid to touch anyone.

Voting up +++ and sharing.

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

Interesting hub...so many children get sick constantly once they start school because they haven't had the opportunity to build up an immunity to germs. I think I was a little too careful of germs with my own children.

jainismus profile image

jainismus 4 years ago from Pune, India

I think we are damaging our immune system, by using antibiotics. You are right. Thank you for writing on this issue.

bridalletter profile image

bridalletter 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

The only time I had raw hands from washing too much is when I worked at a childrens hospital. I try to use hand sanitizer only after truly touching a lot of things in public. Thrift store shopping makes you want to remove germs off your hands by the time you make it to your car. Interesting hub.

Joe Macho profile image

Joe Macho 4 years ago from Colorado

Although sanitary practices are good in theory, the truth is that they are much of the time ineffective. Inoculate a petri dish with a swab of your hands before and after using hand sanitizer. After a couple of days, you'll struggle to differentiate the two. No way around it, bacteria will always be around.

josh3418 profile image

josh3418 4 years ago from Pennsylvania


Awesome hub here! So true! I am glad you brought awareness to this topic. Many people over protect themselves and it is way overboard. I never over protect myself and never get sick! Thanks for sharing Susan!

Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

well said, susan.

we are over sanitizing our environment and our homes and ourselves. As a result our WBC's don't get a chance to do their job :)

gotta make our system work naturally. well said indeed! many votes as interesting and sharing it across

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

There is so much trutht in this hub. I always wondered about that.. I have been to mexico and the first time I got real sick now I don't get sick like I used to and I go twice a year.

great hub


Jenna Pope profile image

Jenna Pope 4 years ago from Southern California

I'm for every child getting their "pound of dirt." Pets can help with that. Voted up.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Hi Susan....Long time no see....It has been a very busy and hectic summer, not to mention unbearably hot.......unless you like it that way.

This is another great hub by you. The questions growing in popularity....and a controversy getting a lot of attention....Just another one of those things to keep us watching and listening. Susan, I get so weary of all the warnings and consumer alerts and the constant admonishments....don't you?

Obviously, pediatricians especially are looking intently at the over-use of antibiotics for children....and from what I understand are re-vamping the way they are medically treating them.

We already know that taking a med...most meds for extended periods or too often, creates an immunity to their usefulness.

The fewer pharmaceuticals we consume, the better, I agree... both health-wise and financially. All this "germ-phobia".....we'll turn into a generation of hermetically-sealed paranoid schizophrenics!!!

The human body was expressly designed and equipped to "heal itself".

What we do from there, how often and how much, is an individual choice, I suppose.

You did an awesome job on this hub, Susan....as always. UP++

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

I had a brother who was a compulsive hand washer. Being afraid of germs is a mental disease, they are all around us and in our intestinal tract, in fact they keep us healthy. Great educational hub. Thank you..

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, Bill! It has been years since I have been sick (knock on wood - lol). You would think we teachers would bring it all home, but so far so good.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, Tammy! Some can carry it too far, but I think they are doing more damage than good. You are so right about antibiotics, too. When we are sick, we need them, but I think they are prescribed too often.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Susan, heart disease? That makes sense. If we get sick because out immune systems are down from over-protection, our body is going to feel that stress and react.

Thanks for dropping by, the votes, and sharing. :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Oh, Susan, it is funny you mentioned Howie Mandel. I added a "Famous Germaphobes" capsule, and he was the first one to pop up when I researched them. :-)

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Interesting and well founded report. thank you

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

HealthyLife, I think it is natural for us to want to protect our children; it's figuring out that fine line that can be difficult. My daughter is OCS with hand washing. I remember her little, red, chapped hands when she was younger. I think her sitter and teachers really pushed hand washing, which I am not opposed. I just wish they hadn't scared her with their discussions about germs. She is 19 and still has to wash her hands a lot.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thank you, Jainismus. Thanks for dropping by! :-)

Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

Our bodies are pretty good about taking care of themselves, if we will let them. You are right, being too cautious is not healthy. Fearing it, to me, makes it worse. Natural remedies instead of antibiotics, is a path I have been studying and reading about. Interesting topic, glad I hopped to it!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

BridalLetter, I can understand needing to wash your hands so much when working with people who are sick or whose immune systems are already down. We can be carries, and we wouldn't want to make anyone sick in those situations.

Yeah, touching things in public and thrift stores do make you feel like you need to wash your hands. Most of those germs are helping us build our immunity, too. I wouldn't go out of my way to go wash my hands unless it just felt really icky... I guess everyone has a different measure of icky, though. ;-)

Thanks for dropping by!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Joe, I agree, and we need to learn to live with it by using common sense. Bacteria will be here long after we are gone. I want to build my resistance to it as long as I possibly can.

Thanks for dropping by!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Josh and Ruchira, I believe you both summed it up. When we do not go overboard protecting ourselves and our kids from germs and bacteria, our immune systems build up a defense and we don't get sick as often.

Thank you both for dropping by, the votes and sharing! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Debbie, I went to Mexico a few years ago. They said the water was filter, so I drank it - had a few little stomach problems. Switched to bottled water. Wish I could go enough to become immune to it. LOL It is so true though. The more we expose ourselves to those little things, the more we build the immune system.

Thanks for dropping by!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Jenna, I'm with you! Every child needs a pet, too! :-)

Thanks for dropping by and voting!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Paula, so good to see you! It has been a long, hot, hectic summer. WHEW!

I am tired of all the hype about staying clean. Sometimes I think it is at the cost of society in order to fill the pockets of the manufacturers and maybe some doctors.

None of us want to get sick, but we are going to create that society of hermits you mentioned who turn into schizophrenics and in turn do awful things to society. It has to turn around.

Maybe that seems to be going overboard, but I don't think so. Just thinking about the way I was raised and the way kids are raised today shows me how different and "foreign" things have become.

Thanks so much for dropping by and voting! It is always a joy to see your comments! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, AlwaysExploring! It is sad when we have created this fear of things that used to be normal, which causes people to become OCD. If we could just live without all the hype, we would be so much better off.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thank you, MHatter! :-)

Ruby, I agree. If we could just live without that implanted fear, we would be so much better off. I, too, am for natural medicines. I believe we would be so much healthier if we stayed away from some of the soaps, alcohol based sanitizers, and all the chemicals that are deemed acceptable.

Thanks so much for Hopping through! :-)

psychicdog.net profile image

psychicdog.net 4 years ago

sholland10 this is so true - germs are not necessarily all bad and if they killed their host they wouldn't really survive if you think about it - so we actually need them to stay healthy - the might is in the fight! Upvoted

kj force profile image

kj force 4 years ago from Florida

sholland10....thank you for bringing this subject to the attention of HP..hopefully many young parents will read and take heed ( little play on words). There are side effects to all these germicides..people use them and then turn around and eat food with their fingers...duh..chemicals entering a warm mucous area...Yes we need to take precautions, but, all this hype causes other issues...great write...

NHKate profile image

NHKate 4 years ago from New England, USA and Florida (in winter)

Hi Susan! Great job on this - John & I have always thought that this "anti-bacterial" kick has gotten way out of control. Of course we wash our hands - of course we use common sense. But somehow or another, we all played in mud-puddles, and have pushed shopping carts that *gack!* OTHER people have pushed - and we've done it withough using "antibacterial wipes" and somehow, some way... we continue to live. :)

Peter Geekie profile image

Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

Excellent article dispelling this obsession with killing all germs and bacteria.

My grandmother always used to tell me - you eat a peck of dirt before you die.

As you say without exposure to these natural bacteria you have no immunity. Vaccination is the process by which various diseases are introduced to your body to educate your immune system as to how it can deal with them.

Kind regards Peter

thewritingowl profile image

thewritingowl 4 years ago from Ireland

Just like an immunity to viruses we need to be able to develop one to germs too. I don't mind the kids getting a bit grubby and playing outside its all a natural part of life, as you say no germs no immunity. I know someone who is obsessed by germs and her kids do get everything that's going and have it for ages so you just have to do what is right for you either way but just not get too obsessed I think.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Psychidog, you are so right. Our immune systems adapt to the germs that are in our system. If we kill as many germs as possible, we are working against our immune system.

Thanks for dropping by and voting. :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

KJ, I too am concerned about all the chemicals we put in our body. Better our immune systems be strengthened by allowing some germs in, than to weaken the immune system killing the germs by breaking it down with chemicals.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Kate, yes we have survived. I watch people going into stores and religiously wiping down the shopping carts. With each swipe, they are killing germs that help build our immune systems. Common sense is the key. If you see someone with a red, runny nose and sneezing, you might want to go for the wipes or choose another cart.

Thanks for sharing your common sense and dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Peter, your grandmother was a wise woman!

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

WritingOwl, I'm with you. Let the kids be kids and play. They are going to get dirty. We teach them not to put certain things in their mouths, but they are inevitably going to eat a little dirt.

I know people who are obsessed with staying clean and obsessively washing their hands. You're right, they seem to be the ones with no defenses and catch everything that comes along.

Thanks so much for dropping by! :-)

rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

I definitely see the point that you try to make...

Us humans... have evolved over the years and adapted to different kinds of micro-organisms effectively..

Modern medicine has paved the way for more but it also has its cons... and sometimes these are very ugly... I have some female friends who are so prone to medication and protection.. that they get sick from the slightest bit of exposure.... This I feel is bad...

Parents and the braiwahers are responsible for this... Parents of this generation should reminisce about their upbringing and treat their kids accordingly..

They do not realize that by over protection they are making their kids weak in the long run

A very important.. and a must read hub

jennzie profile image

jennzie 4 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

This is an informative article. I also believe that people can way overuse hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap.

Dr Pooja profile image

Dr Pooja 4 years ago

Wonderful and courageous to bring this to the world.I am a microbiologist and when I speak the same thing people think I am mad.Now-a-days parents are too damn protective about their kids and you are right obessesed with hygiene.Thrilled to find someone who thinks like I do.

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I particularly enjoyed this hub as I really don't worry about germs at all. I keep the house clean because I like it that way. Rarely to use any of those remove all germs products. As a kid we didn't have them and I am still alive and kicking. Great hub and a great job. Voted UP.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Rahul, so sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. You make an excellent point about parents looking back on their own childhood... We have survived!! :-)

Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing!! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Jennzie, I agree - too much overuse.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Wow, Dr. Pooja, I would listen to you with your expertise in the field of microbiology!! You have the inside scoop. I agree that today parents are overprotective in this area.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Carol, I am with you. I keep my house clean, too, but it is definitely lived in, and I might miss a thing or two. And, I couldn't have said it better; we did survive!! :-)

Thanks for dropping by and the vote! :-)

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