An Allergist’s Nightmare: The Micro-Poop Theory

 

One Western tradition that I find truly puzzling is the
custom of wearing shoes inside the house. Although some of
my non-Asian friends have banned shoes in their homes after
they have children, I still find that a majority of
Americans and Europeans continue to wear shoes inside their
homes. Unlike Eastern cultures that consider this practice
unsanitary, many Westerners don’t think much of it even
though this can be harmful for someone with allergies.

Leave Your Load Outside

As someone who specializes in treating nasal allergies, I
cringe whenever I see dog poop on the sidewalk. Imagine
that a beagle poops on the sidewalk in front of your
apartment and the owner is negligent in cleaning up after
the dog. You later walk home from work and as you approach
the entrance of your apartment, you see the dog poop just
in time to avoid stepping in it. You’re disgusted that it’s
just sitting there and that the owner didn’t have the
common courtesy to clean up afterwards.

Let’s say the next day the same dog poops again in the same
spot and the owner doesn’t clean up. The building
superintendent happens to be watering the garden, notices
the dog feces, and hoses it away towards the street into
the gutter. You then walk by a few minutes later, and step
in the area where the poop used to be, but you don’t notice
this since it’s now covered in a thin layer of water. You
walk through the lobby and up to your apartment.
Now this is where it starts to get really problematic. Many
people assume walking over lobby carpeting or the door mat
in front of your apartment would have wiped any residual
poop particles off your shoe. But think about this: if you
step in poop and take a towel and wipe it off vigorously,
is it really off? Even if it’s a wet towel, can you be
truly certain that your shoes are truly free of all fecal
matter?

This situation doesn’t just apply to dog poop. This also
applies to human phlegm, gum, dog urine, bird poop,
chemicals, car oil, pollutants, bacteria and molds and
whatever else you might find on the sidewalks of New York
City at any time of the day. How many different kinds of
germs or chemicals, organic or non-organic, are still stuck
to the bottom of your shoe when you enter your apartment?
“Yes”, you say, “but I clean the floors all the time with
disinfectant cleaning agents”. My answer to that is, “Yes,
you can mop the floors every day, but you literally can’t
mop after every new footstep”. Your carpet is like the
towel that you originally used to wipe your shoes off with,
only now you’re living on it. Even worse, you let your 8
month old toddler crawl on your freshly mopped floor, not
realizing that it’s already been contaminated by your
husband after he came home, bringing home his daily dog
poop.

This is not even considering the amount of toxic chemicals
found in most cleaning agents. Unless you put your shoes
through a mini-shoe wash with soap and water before
entering your apartment every time, it’s impossible not to
bring in microscopic pieces of contaminants into the
apartment.

Go East And Tread Lightly

In Far Eastern cultures, it’s customary to take off your
shoes before you enter your home. You can either enter
barefoot, with socks, and more commonly, using indoor
slippers. Given this scenario, there’s less of a chance of
the scenario mentioned previously. This is not to say that
there aren’t any germs present already in your carpet or
floors. However, in this case, you’re not adding an
additional load of microscopic pieces of dog poop, urine,
dirt, or spit inside your apartment.

In this age of paranoia about germs and flesh-eating
bacteria, every other hand-soap is “anti-bacterial”, and
cleaning agents are measured by their 99.99% germ killing
abilities. I can’t help but to see this major disconnect,
where we’re obsessed about germ-free hands, but totally
ignorant about the pseudomona riding on the soles of the
shoes worn inside homes.

Disinfecting Versus Desensitization

One of the major theories about why there are so many
people with allergies today is that as a society, we’re
using too many antibiotics, whether it’s through
prescription medications, anti-bacterial soaps, or even
disinfectants. Because your immune system learns to
differentiate itself from foreign substances by exposure,
over time, chronic long-term exposure to dust or any other
type of allergen, allows your body to learn that low levels
of dust are tolerable. This is similar to what happens when
you get allergy shots. It’s just another form of
desensitization. What this means is that if you don’t have
a low level of exposure to common allergens or foreign
substances, then your body thinks it’s a brand new foreign
material and initiates an allergic reaction.

However, the kind of bacteria that we introduce into our
living room via our street contaminated shoes presents a
much different scenario. In this situation, the type of
contaminants on the soles of your shoes are not only
“foreign” to most living spaces, they’re toxic.

Are We Allergyphobic?

I realize my micro-poop theory is a little far fetched, but
this is only an extreme example of common situations that
we as a society stress about too much. We probably don’t
need antibacterial hand-soaps. Regular soap is fine to
remove dirt, viruses or bacteria. The amount of dog poop
tracked into the apartment is probably too miniscule to
cause any harm. But the thought of bringing in your
poop-laden shoe into my house after a few wipes on the
lobby carpeting is still a little unsettling.

I know there are people who have objections about going
shoeless in the house. Floors can be cold, our feet look
ugly, and sometimes our feet can smell. But let me leave
you with the one thought: Would you prefer your toddler to
be exposed to her father’s foot sweat, or someone else’s
dog’s poop?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “An Allergist’s Nightmare: The Micro-Poop Theory

  1. I live in an apartment complex and my neighbor has two dogs. He lets them pee right outside his front door, on the grassy area to the left our our car where we have to step on with our shoes and also he lets his dogs poop there and often does not pick the feces up. We have to pick the feces up in order not to step into it. The Management Company TCB who recently bought this beautiful complex Lincoln Woods in Lincoln, MA DO NOTHING ABOUT THIS MAN AND HIS TWO DOGS and act as though WE ARE THE PROBLEM not the OFFENDER of the pet rider here – not to mention we are tracking into our home on the bottom of our shoes. There is an area between our car and the sidewalk to our house that we have to JUMP OVER because this man has his dogs pee there right in front of our car. We cannot believe Management here does not take our health concerns regarding this issue seriously. Any suggestions?

  2. While I agree that wearing shoes worn outside the house inside, I learned the hard way that going barefoot or in socks on hard floors can lead to fallen arches and foot problems.

    You should recommend that people wear a pair of indoor only shoes or slippers with good support when they leave their shoes outside, or after a few years those shoes may not fit.