In class this week we spoke a bit about the differences between quantitative and qualitative data. Statistics are often not worth the paper they’re written on unless you look at the full picture. By the same accord, it’s not too hard to imagine a person giving a personal account of an incredibly unlikely event. The best thing you can do when presented with either form of data is to research further. Confirm the data you’ve been presented, look at the agency that collected the statistics and the sample size, as well as size of similar studies if you can find them.
I wanted to preface the core topic of my post today because this conundrum is foundational to this particular problem. Everyone would agree that mankind is progressing forward in every facet of science, medicine, and technology. As a species, we have never known more. This statement is exacerbated by the nearly infinite access to this knowledge via the internet. So you might be asking: we’re smarter than ever, what’s the problem? Well, nobody comes close to matching the complete intelligence of our entire species. We take something that was intended to help and misuse it, or take advice and misinterpret it, or exaggerate to a doctor to get them to write a prescription for a drug you think you need.
A common example for this kind of misapplied information is over-washing hands, especially by over-protective parents with their children. Now, at face value we would all agree that washing one’s hands is a good practice, but numerous studies have shown there’s a fine line, especially for children, between helpful and hurtful hygiene. The basic idea is that you need exposure to everyday germs to build up a tolerance or immunity to them. Children are much better at building up these tolerances due to biological changes that occur later in life that kind of ‘lock in’ your level of immunity to certain things. Thus, over washing can result in a much weaker immune system as an adult compared to someone with normal, or even poor hand washing habits.
Another good example of this is use of digestive aids on a regular basis instead of an ‘as needed’ basis. While it provides immediate comfort and a resolution to the problem, you deny your body the experience of ‘solving’ that problem itself. Our bodies are incredible machines that are ever changing and adapting, which is a great strength, but in this case is an enormous weakness. With regular aid from a medication not intended for long term use, your body becomes dependent on the aid. This can have numerous and sometimes very serious and widely varied consequences.
The root problem here is not the hand washing or digestive aid. The problem is lack of information by the user and a chronic misuse. All this to say, please know what you are doing to your body and inform yourself, or ask informed professionals about proper use.