During a routine health screening at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Tucson, Arizona last week, my primary care provider noticed in my chart that I had not had a tetanus shot in over ten years, and prescribed a diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT) shot as a protective measure. This led to a discussion of the current state of health in America today. Not healthcare, but health itself.
Pertussis is more commonly known as whooping cough, a childhood disease that I thought had been conquered years ago, and I was curious as to why she was prescribing a shot for it. She told me that far from being eradicated, whooping cough is still around and still a serious threat to health. In fact, outbreaks seem to be on the rise in many areas. In California, at least ten infants have died of the disease in the last year or two, and people of any age can be infected.
I asked the nurse practioneer why pertussis is still around, since we have had vaccines against it for years. She said that a lot of misinformation and highly exaggerated claims against the DPT shots have kept many parents from having their kids immunized, resulting in the problems we are seeing today.
Then she observed that Americans are so screwed up in our thinking about diseases that we are raising a population of people who have no natural immunity to anything, and observed that when we were all kids, we never worried about even ten percent of the things we do today, yet we all survived. She said she recalled, as a girl, always sticking a blade of grass between her teeth to chew on, but today’s parents would freak out and rush a child to the nearest emergency room to be checked for herbicides, bird droppings, artificial fertilizers, and a hundred other things.
I agree. My boyhood pal Jeff McBride and I watched the Lone Ranger and Tonto cut their arms to mingle their blood and become blood brothers, so we promptly pricked our fingers with one of his mother’s sewing needles and did the same thing. Neither of us died of hepatitis, AIDS, or any other blood borne disease. Hell, we were always walking around with scraped elbows and bloody knees.
We didn’t wear pads and helmets when we rode our bicycles, and when we fell off and got banged up, there was no ride in an ambulance. We laughed at our clumsiness, dusted ourselves off, and got back on our bikes. Our parents didn’t pamper our bodies into sanitary shrines, we got exposed to whatever was going around, and we got over whatever we happened to catch.
Today we can’t walk into a grocery store without stopping to spray our hands with disinfectant before we touch the shopping cart, and I know many people who won’t drink out of a glass at a restaurant because they don’t know whose mouth was on it earlier. Of course, they don’t hesitate to stick that same restaurant’s silverware into their mouths. Go figure.
Did you ever wonder why Americans get Montezuma’s Revenge when they visit Mexico, while the locals folks are unaffected? It’s because they have built up a natural immunity to a lot of things that would make us sick. And yes, I know that people in those kinds of places do get sick and even die from diseases we don’t have here, but isn’t there a happy medium somewhere?
We know several people who are so worried about eating right, or not putting on an extra ounce, that they have gone to the other extreme, and are starving themselves.
We avoid red meat, we’re germaphobic, we shun tap water, and we are so damned healthy in this country that we are killing ourselves! It’s just not natural.
Did you ever wonder why we have diseases today that were never heard of a hundred years ago? I truly believe that it is because Mother Nature has a system of checks and balances to keep all animal populations in line. If we kill off the coyotes in an area, the rabbit population soars, and then hawks and other birds of prey increase in numbers. Nature has to replace those predators man has driven out.
Human beings are still animals, when it comes right down to it. We can’t live forever. So when we do away with diseases, nature gives us new diseases, and sometimes those diseases are worse than the ones we dealt with in the good old days.
While I think we need to protect our kids from exposure to potentially harmful diseases, I also think that we need to let them get sick once in a while, to get bloody noses and scraped knees and scabs on their noggins. It might help them live longer, in the long run.
Tags: AIDS, artificial fertilizers, bird droppings, blood borne disease, bloody noses, childhood disease, die from disease, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT) shot, diseases, disinfectant, emergency room, germaphobic, harmful diseases, healthcare, hepatitis, herbicides, immunizing kids, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Montezuma’s Revenge, Mother Nature, natural immunity, nurse practioneer, Pertussis, routine health screening, scraped knees, tetanus shot, Veteran’s Administration hospital, whooping cough