Eat Dirt

The most prominent sign on every entry to our hospital is one that reads, “NO LATEX BALLOONS.”  A red circle surrounds a graphic of a yellow balloon with a red line through it for good measure.

Forget, “Welcome To This Place of Healing,”  or perhaps even the hospital name, which does appear but is barely visible by comparison to the ginormous anti-balloon sign next to it.

These days, you can hardly admit a patient without dealing with some form of allergy.  To tape, to IV fluids, to angiocaths, to cephalosporins, to macrolides, to bright lights, to cotton sheets, to sterilizing cleaners on the floors, to hand sanitizer, to pain, to rushed doctors, to anything less than elephant-sized doses of narcotics.

I find myself frequently wondering if people really ARE that allergic to things or if we’re just control-freak whiners with too much affluence.  Were the grizzled survivors of the Depression – any of them – truly allergic to, say, tape?  If they were, do you think they’d make sure everyone in a 2-block radius was aware of it?

How is it, I’ve wondered, that humanity actually arrived here – at 2009 – when they can’t stand much of anything getting near their bodies?  Since when was anyone allergic to balloons?  Really?  How are you with Tootsie Rolls?  What about roller skates…throat just closes right up, I imagine.

Recently more evidence has surfaced to suggest that we are in fact allergic to more things, because of America’s 20-year obsession with cleanliness.  A cool article in the NYTimes points out some new research by a few different scientists and they all argue that by being too clean, especially as kids, our immune systems aren’t seeing enough antigens (proteins that stimulate an immune response) to be able to get used to them.  Thus, when we do come in contact with things that once caused no trouble at all, now cause all kinds of hypervigilance of the immune system.

In other words, eat dirt so you can have balloons.

One of the docs recommended at least 2 dogs for every kid.  Dogs throw crap (literally) all over the place.  Other than the fact that it tastes bad and too much can make you sick, eating dog poo is great for the health of an average kid.  Thus, if you have two dogs, dropping microscopic clumps of feces all over your house, and your kid is crawling through it all day…you might just be protecting them from all manner of autoimmune problems like MS, diabetes and Parkinsons.

I totally agree with the idea, emotionally anyway.  I think our culture has become too safety-focused, too clean, to rubbery and too…safe.  When you’ve become so sensitive to your environment that you can’t even be around balloons…you know you’re too uptight.

Nothing should ever get in the way of a person and a big, beautiful yellow balloon.  So, eat your dirt and enjoy the latex!

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