Hypothesis: Being too clean makes us more prone to colds and other viruses.
That’s a weird thing to say, so let’s unpack it a little. First off, how do you get infected with a cold? One way is if someone with a cold sneezes and you inhale the saliva and other particles. That seems rare to me. After you sneeze all the little droplets settle pretty quickly, making them a lot harder to breathe in. Another, probably more common, way is if someone who’s sick touches a surface, and you later touch the same surface, then touch your own face. That’s what my hypothesis is about.
A few supporting facts. We all have unique colonies of bacteria, fungus, and other micro organisms living on our skin. When you do something like shake hands with someone else, a little bit of each colony gets transferred between people. If your colony is strong, it will wipe out the invaders pretty quickly. If it’s weak, say, you just washed your hands with sanitizing hand gel, then that foreign invader will have a chance to get a toehold. Touch your eye, your nose, or your mouth later, and you’ve just given the rhino virus, or whatever invading organism, a highway into you.
Colds and flus are a never-ending problem for me. Recently, I’ve managed to reduce the number of times I’ve gotten sick. Some of my techniques are obvious and uncontroversial. Encourage those around me to sneeze into the crook of their elbow instead of their hand. Breathe through my nose rather than my mouth, as the nose has more defenses against invading germs. Eat a varied diet rich in lots of different kinds of vegetables to make sure I have the vitamins and minerals I need, and avoiding junk food and alcohol. But at times when I know I’m going to be exposed to sick people, such as when I’m on public transportation or crowded areas, I avoid showering for at least 24 hours. I use deodorant, and make sure I smell good and don’t have any obvious stains on my person, but I want a nice, healthy ecosystem living on my skin, as my strongest, best defense against invaders.
Take my advice. When cold and flu season comes around, do the obvious things that doctors recommend, but also keep your micro biome happy. Keep those little bacteria happy, and they’ll help keep you healthy. It’s win-win.