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Are we making our children sick?

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Are we making our children sick?

Old 23rd Sep 2009, 19:16
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Are we making our children sick?

Just recently, in the UK, we have had a bad spate of sickness amongst young children, caused by e-coli that's found in some farm animals at petting farms. From watching the news, these farms all seem to have plenty of anti-bacterial hand washing facilities, along with huge warning signs everywhere. Yet, despite this, many children are sick, some seriously so.

This has got me thinking. Now I'm not talking about basic hygiene here. That should, obviously, always be adhered to. But everything seems to be anti-bacterial this, sterilised that. Our homes are cleaner than ever before. Yet, children especially, seem more prone to infections and allergies than they ever were when I was a child.

I, along with my friends, spent my childhood playing in the woods all day, eating mud and worms and playing with any animals that crossed our path. All the usual things the average child would get up to. I don't remember having all the anti-bacterial sprays/handwashes/cleaning products. From what I recall, we had good old soap and bleach. But we were rarely sick, apart from when Mum would shunt us off to a "chicken pox party!" Allergies were rare and there were only about 3 kids in my whole school that suffered from asthma.

So are all these products doing us more harm than good? Are they preventing children's immune systems from being given a chance to develop and strengthen? They seem to get everything infection going these days, so something isn't working.

Maybe I'm way off the mark. I'm no Doctor, after all. But is it time to stop wrapping children up in cotton wool? Would they turn out to be healthier in the long run?


P.S. Apologies if this has already been raised. I did have a look but couldn't see anything!
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 19:23
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@jetset lady:

I think one of the main reasons for this occurring in children is caused by the over reliance, by some, on the same hand sanitizers and other such goodies that you refer to.
See bacteria and virus have this very nasty habit of adapting to their environments. And if in adapting it requires them to recombine themselves then they will do so.
So if Mr. Nasty Virus has a duel with Proctor and Gambles' latest hand sanitizer and loses, it remembers why it loses and makes adaptations so that in the course of time it won't lose against P&G again. (However, Mr. Johnson and Johnson will come up with another product that Mr. Nasty Virus hasn't seen before and the same cycle will start all over.) It's a never ending game between "us and them" but, unfortunately, "us" might eventually lose this war.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 19:27
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Totally agree with you JSL, I can't help but think there is too much "wrapping in cotton wool" than is good.

Apart from the usual childhood ilnesses (chicken pox etc.) I can't recall ever getting ill after playing in open fields, drainage ditches, muddy rivers and even on the beach - well before the idea of clean water quality was even thought of by the huggy fluffs!
The worst I had, was discovering I had Hay Fever - after playing in long grass for years.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 19:30
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Good point JSL, and I agree having also partaken of the "chicken-pox party" (never caught it then, I was 21 when I did) and similar childhood.

By sanitizing everything, the immune system starts to get lazy and our natural immunity weakened.

Once met a very prominent consultant (about twenty years ago) in Gastro - disorders and he reckoned it would do everyone the power of good if they ate their dinner off the floor at least once a week; "we're all becoming namby-pambies" were his words.


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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 19:48
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Agree with you JSL, I think the only anti-bacterial stuff I ever got as a kid was Detol, applied to cuts i'd received from all the things I used to get up to, in the woods near where we lived, especially round bonfire night, when we used to sit on the branches we where cutting down, so they came away faster..
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 19:57
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Well, that sounds like a cunning plan
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:01
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Agree with you 100%.

Having grown up in the 1970s I count myself as being one of the last of the "Free Range Kids" as opposed to todays "Battery Children" who are kept indoors and removed from any possible perceived harm or risk to health (No matter how minor).

We used to go out and play until dusk, when we would be expected to come home again. We learned self-reliance, a sense of responsibility for our actions and towards our friends, and many other life lessons too numerous to mention.

Today's children seem to be reared on television and computers. On the rare occassions they do go to outside events they have to be ferried in 4x4's to and from the door. Even the people carriers and 4-wheel drives seem to have blacked-out windows in order to prevent any possible risk of UV getting onto the skin of the little darlings (because the newspapers all tell us how sunlight will kill our children!) Or maybe it's to prevent the masses of paedophiles* (who we're told are stalking every street unchecked) from getting a glimpse of potential victims?

I feel sorry for them. A life without the freedom to take risks and learn from the consequences is no life at all.

*Some years ago, I was visiting my 90 year old Grandmother when news of a paedophile attack came on the TV news. When it was finished, I fully expected her to respond with "What's the World coming to? Tut tut", etc. Instead she said "Of course this is nothing new. It happened just as much in my day, but because it wasn't all over the country in ten minutes people kept the risks in proportion". Wise woman, my Granny.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:02
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I quite agree JSL I made that point in another thread on here that was about urban foxes and got shouted at.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:16
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When my own kids arrived on the scene less than 10yrs ago, and me and my Dad were watching them play outside and I got a bit too anxious about how much crap they were ferreting around in, my Dad said to me 'by the time they're twenty they'll have eaten a ton of sh!t, just relax, you're still here aren't you?'. Wise man my Dad.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:22
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Living as I do with the Rivetess, I'm not allowed to even touch a certain hammer that stays in the kitchen. It's there to smack on the head, the final bacterium that escapes from her arsenal of sprays.

It was so nice while she was away. I danced round the kitchen wiping raw meat on every surface...horizontal or vertical, and let Bandit the Bulldog from next door, eat the scraps off my plate as a reward for my knees being licked clean. Flies? I encouraged them in...opening the very windows that hadn't got bug screens. I needed the company.

I let the 'Chukka-lukkers' (small chicken sized bird that makes cute noises.) sit on the window as I was washing up. Well, wiping with a wet cloth - up. The cat? Well she could go anywhere she darn well wanted, and taste my dinner before I ate it.

Anyway, that's me...but when it comes to children, one has to be a tad more careful.

Look at the census or town records about the time of Shakespeare. The graveyards had a lot of infants in them. A lot. I in 5 died I think, and mostly from bacteriological infections. One of the reasons that they swaddled the infants and babies, was to stop them running their hands on the cot wood. The simple splinter wound, if it turned nasty, was a killer. This was one of the things that they spelled out on the Anne Hathaway tour.

The immune system is incredible, but so easily overwhelmed. The story of the first penicillin being used on a London policeman is horrific. Too horrible to relate here, but he wouldn't have been molly-coddled on a day to day basis, his immune system was probably often put to the test. He didn't make it BTW.

We are incredibly lucky to live in the post 1945 - 50 era. So much suffering and loss of life has been saved by antibiotics. I'm sure there has been over-use, but on aggregate, the benefits are overwhelming.

Viral infections are quite different, and apart from the new immune system boosters, there is not much 'we' (as humans) can do apart from inoculate. That and intensive nursing with O2 during the crisis.

Last edited by Loose rivets; 23rd Sep 2009 at 20:47.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:23
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And studies have shown that children that are brought up in a home that has a cat or dog have much stronger immune systems than their non animal compatriots....

But tell that to the average parent who will want to protect their little darlings from those filthy beasts. I seem to recall that the human mouth has more bacteria than the mutts nutts Is it any wonder that they (parents) react like this when the adverts pushing hygiene products are ever more menacing and numerous playing on the fears of the populace.

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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:23
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It's really easy to check, so I won't provide links, but what is true is that parents perception of danger has gone up whilst the actual risk of harm has gone down in almost the same proportion. Too much cotton wool for sure. The current generation of kids are safer playing alone, out of mum and dads sight, than ever yet still, parents apparently want to clamp them down. Why?
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:30
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The real problem is believing marketing. Now if somebody would just advertise "Drinking Bleach gives you Energy!" our problems would be over.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:37
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I'm with Ten West on this one.

I grew up in the 80's and early 90's on a Glasgow council estate. It was grim and grubby but we had freedom to roam around the burnt out playground at the back and to play on our bicycles in the car parks. We got up to all sorts of nonsense and mischief as kids did in those days and that included wrestling on the muddy hill behind the flats, ducking one another in puddles, playing football in dog sh!t covered grass and being cut open by all sorts of filthy rusty objects and broken glass. It probably goes a long way to explaining why I had nothing more than a runny nose and slight sore throat for 24 hours when swine flue hit me last month, yet the generation below me are being hospitalised on a daily basis with said virus.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:37
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The story of the first penicillin being used on a London policeman is horrific. Too horrible to relate here
This isn't just the internet, it's not even PPRuNe, it's JetBlast. Don't be a pussy, relate away...
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:47
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The Policeman.

Wasn't it some form of necrotising bacterial infection that was treated initially with a limited supply of penicillin? This novel treatment initially had a positive impact on the infection.

They eventually ran out of the culture though and had to resort to straining urine etc. to recover some of the remnants of the drug.

The poor fellow ultimately died.
Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:48
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I don't want to leave the impression that I think we should't bother fighting this problem. That is certainly not the case, so I'll move my edit down here cos of the recent post.

....but some of the recent findings about what is going on inside the 'modified' bacteria, and the cells they attack, giver real hope that we'll be able to overcome the MRSA problem fairly soon, and this is what I feel should take all our efforts.

One of my lot is published on mind/stress and the immune system. I never quote him for fear of making a mistake, but I can say the effects are measurably clear. Bear in mind that in the US - a huge sample, the 2006- 2007 figures for deaths by MRSA by pneumonia I think it was - in young otherwise healthy people - is 'only' 24 -ish

The problem is that it so fast. 4 days being a figure mentioned for pneumonia with a resistant bug. That is truly a serious problem, but the way forward is the above mentioned research, not eating worms
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 20:50
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It's really easy to check, so I won't provide links, but what is true is that parents perception of danger has gone up whilst the actual risk of harm has gone down in almost the same proportion. Too much cotton wool for sure. The current generation of kids are safer playing alone, out of mum and dads sight, than ever yet still, parents apparently want to clamp them down. Why?
has it?

I think you're wrong.

Many times we don't eliminate risk, we simply redistribute it, like the feather duster that turns harmless dormant dander on top of a dresser into a nasty airborne particulate menace.
Creating a sterile bubble prevents a tetanus infection from a rusty nail, but creates an immune nightmare as the wandering warriors turn against the body they are supposed to protect:

Mumps, chicken pox down, auto-immune diseases up, waaaay up.
Psychological disorders are also up, some because of new-Age recognition where 'Mary's lazy little bastard' has 'Work aversion syndrome' but also autism, poorly understood, is on the rise.

Regarding 'pedophiles' its VERY scary. Some belong to multi-national organizations, which give them umbrella protections and shuttle them from location to location to avoid detection and prosecution (And no, I'm not talking about the Catholic Church) Back in the day, it was enough to train your kids to stay out of harms way, now you have people specifically looking for YOUR kid, and the internet makes it easy to approach,anonymously and with a well packed dossier of your child's every like and dislike, cleaned from all his/her online mutterings and those of his online friends.

The world too, though smaller, is much more lonely than ever before. Look at the way homes are built in the United States - gone is the 'front porch' where people would sit out and relax and interact.
Instead there is the garage door with its automatic opener and drive in a metal shell, deeper into another shell, without ever seeing or talking to anyone.
No porch for me, not when a mosquito can bring instant agonizing death - or so it would seem from tv!
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 21:08
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MB, that's the one. There was so little available that they tried to recoup their supplies from his urine. But, the raging septicemia was winning, and they resorted to extreme measures to combat the onslaught. One was removing his eye or eyes that were beyond help. Maybe it was just as well that he slipped away.
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Old 23rd Sep 2009, 21:56
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Cessna puppy, those rose tinted spectacles fitting OK?

The overwhelming majority of harm committed to children is perpetrated by family members, relatives and "friends" of the family. No debate. So, a reasonable arugment that keeping them at home exposes them to more risk of the really terrible things that can happen.

Attacks by strangers, especially from paedophiles, have consistenly fallen. Only the media, ably supported by incompetent government (oh, if only Diana was alive) have managed to whip up the hysteria and induce harumphing and coughing fits over the cornflakes to reinforce the nonsense about how much better it was when we were kids....

BTW, the NSPCC are my favourite charity and they have given me enough information to know that I am both sickened by what people are capable of doing to children and also that kids playing outisde is a safer proposition than it's ever been.

Here are a few links. You'll struggle to find anything to refute it. Historians, criminlogists, psychologists, sociologists, police chiefs, teachers - all are in agreement. Safer than than ever and to behave otherwise is damaging to our children and our future.

Our children are safer than they've ever been before: But the scare-mongering media don't ever mention it | Article from Male View | HighBeam Research


Parenting Without Fear. Our kids are safer than ever. So why are we still afraid? By "Free Range Kids" author Lenore Skenazy for Babble.com.

News Flash: Kids SAFER Than We Think! FreeRangeKids
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