Aggie,
I use tongs while printing and latex gloves for toning, bleaching, etc. and I also have a horror story of a friend that ended up not being able to continue working in the darkroom because of developing an allergic reaction to developers. Its commonly known as Metol poisoning and can be quite painful. I have been told that some people react the first time they come in contact with the developer and others develop the condition after continued exposure over the yearss and of course there are those that never do. This and the other warnings you have received I'm sure are not to scare you off using your bare hands in processing. But why take the chance?