Monthly Archives: September 2014

Hey, that’s the Germ Alarm! Can you really keep your kids safe?

Carbon Monoxide Bomb
You have a carbon monoxide alarm – but germs are every bit as deadly

Deadly stuff, carbon monoxide.

You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, but you don’t take chances. So like a lot of careful people, you fit a carbon monoxide alarm.

But you don’t have a GERM ALARM do you?

Same thing, you can’t see them, you can’t taste them, but they’re there in their billions – all the time, every day – and every bit as deadly as carbon monoxide.

But what do they say?

Ignorance is bliss, right?

Because any room is full of germs and we’re quite happy to walk in without checking.

Or worse, let our kids do it. Thirty children in one classroom – with goodness knows what kind of bugs they’re exposed to.

Scary.

Of course, we don’t really need an alarm.

Viruses and bacteria are ALWAYS there. It’s their natural environment. Just as it’s their natural behaviour to try to invade our bodies and do us down.

So what do we do about it?

A spray of room freshener perhaps? A quick wipe-down with Dettol?

Not exactly the best defence against norovirus, or e. coli – or whatever bug some other kids might have brought back from holiday. Malaria, yellow fever – in some parts of the world they’ve even got polio.

And you can die from pretty well any of them. Or more accurately, your kids can.

But there is a defence against a room full of germs. A totally effective one too.

You see, one thing that no virus or bacteria can survive is being oxidised. Having extra oxygen atoms shoved at them so their cell structure is ripped apart.

Which is what hydrogen peroxide does. The same stuff that disinfects cuts, whitens your teeth and bleaches your hair. Or as a good second choice, ammonium chloride.

And here’s the clever bit. Spray a room with hydrogen peroxide that’s been ionised, and it naturally reaches up and out, dispersing everywhere – through the air, into cracks and crevices – drawn there electrostatically in a mist that’s lighter than water.

It’s naturally drawn to germs too. Latching onto them the same way a magnet grabs iron filings.

Which means they’re gone – over skedover.

The room is sterilised and your children are safe. All for about the same cost as a cup of coffee and a sticky bun. Rescued from germs every day – by a machine about the size of a wheelie bin, that does the job in twenty minutes.

If you get stuck or have an emergency, there’s a handbag-size  ammonium chloride aerosol that does the same job in about the same time.

A bit under-powered alongside hydrogen peroxide, but it clobbers the germs and very effectively. All you do is press the button and leave the room.

Slightly more effective than a carbon monoxide alarm.

It gets rid of the hazard instead of squawking without doing anything.

The Health & Safety people would be proud of you.

But not as much as you are of course, with your kids running round, glowing with health.

Still scared of germs? A very wise attitude.

It’s a big world out there, full of germs, pathogens, microorganisms – whatever you want to call them. And there’s a squeezillion, susquetrillion, megamillion more where those came from

But at least you know it’s safe where your kids are.

Killers at school – but totally under control

Girl threatened by shadow
With the right protection, germs can’t touch her

All round the country, parents are breathing a sigh of relief. Their children have survived the first week of school.

Seasoned Mums take such anxiety in their stride, quickly forgetting how worried they were. How they had only days ago convinced themselves of the worst – and that their precious offspring were soon to be no more.

It’s OCD overkill of course, but such apprehension is actually useful.
Not because Betsy-kins will be chomped by another child or have her foot run over by a tea trolley.

Crazy things happen in one’s head, but the realities are a lot simpler. There is therapy that the worst thing was only a splinter, or that another girl stole her sweater.

Yes, our kids are at more hazard with other kids, but in ways we can’t see. Thirty children in a classroom is one thing. The billions and billions of microbes that surround each one of them is quite another.

Children are remarkably resilient. They don’t break like glass or china. Nor do they come down with one bug after another because of these microbes. Their systems are used to living with them, so nothing happens. Eating mud-pies doesn’t kill them.

It’s different at school. All of a sudden, the “home” microbes their bodies are used to meet up with a whole load of others. Thirty children in one room. Sudden exposure. It can happen.

In the classroom – at assembly, where all the classes are together – in the refectory for lunch. Betsy-kins comes home feeling funny – and the next day she’s in hospital.

Except it’s all entirely preventable. As long as none of those germs gets INSIDE the body, all our children are safe.

So the trick is to clobber them first. The germs, that is.

They might be deadly, but ALL viruses and bacteria are vulnerable.

Outside the body, swirling in the air, there is nothing to protect them. Even though they’re too microscopically small to see.

Shove extra oxygen atoms at them and they die. Their cell structure is ripped apart, they cannot survive. And that applies to deadly malaria or yellow fever just as much as the common cold. No germ can avoid it. Whatever the pathogen, oxidising them is the end.

Which is what hydrogen peroxide does. The same stuff our own Mums used to put on cuts and scratches. That makes girls’ hair go blonde. That we use as a mouthwash to make our teeth go white.

And it’s so easy too. Mist the classrooms with it before the kids get there and the whole place is sterilised. There ‘s even a machine that does it automatically.

It puts out a super-fine mist that’s as light as the air itself and reaches everywhere. With a low, low hydrogen peroxide content that’s about the same as the mouthwash. Safe because it resolves after use into oxygen and water. Super-efficient because it’s ionised.

Isn’t it time your school got one?

That should reduces your worries to nothing.

Except where to park to pick up Betsy-kins.

You’re not killing yourself working – that’s germs doing it for you

Man with headache
It’s germs – you’re not imagining it

The career move was a quantum leap.

From obscurity to marketing director at a single bound. Top banana in one the biggest media companies around.

Next stop fame, fortune and a run at the top spot in perhaps five years.

As if.

The first week was all euphoria. Glad-handing and endless lunches. Not a lot of time in the office.

Week two was the real thing. Head down and getting stuck in.

Round about when the headaches started. And the nausea. A weird feeling of unease. Worst of all, out of nowhere, an overnight lack of confidence.

Where? How?

The condition vanished away from work.

Even the M25 felt better.

Weekends were great. Home with the family, everything went away.

Not so great on Mondays.

By the third week, going to work brought looming dread.

The headaches started in thirty minutes. And the unwanted sensations. Claustrophobia, feeling dirty, a loss of balance, and always impending nausea.

A trip to the Doc didn’t help. Everything fine, fit as a fiddle.

So why was the job so lousy?

It wasn’t the job, it was the building.

Because week four was out at one of the branches. Intensive stuff – crack of dawn start, all day hard at it, after midnight back at the hotel. An adrenalin high, riding the crest of the wave. Exulting in the stuff they got though.

Then back to doom and gloom.

It couldn’t go on. Either something gave, or it was a new job.

And then the report at the back of the filing cabinet. The one that got buried because of the expense. Sick building syndrome. Move somewhere else or pull the place down.

Not options, either of them. Cash flow wouldn’t permit. How else did anyone think the job happened in the first place? Not a whizz-kid from Oxford or LSE, just plain and simple 9-to-5 ordinary.

Except there was a quick-fix for sick building syndrome. Not permanent, but enough to make people feel better. Yes, there were others – and everyone hated the place. Hated the mould and the rising damp. Hated the bugs that they gave off. And the smell.

In marketing they had a whip-round. Bought a triple-whammy machine that sprayed hydrogen peroxide. Killed germs in the air, the blurb said. Sterilised the place so there was nothing there. Right about the time when the balance sheet kicked upwards. The first lift-off in three years.

Sales had a whip-round too – and offered to go halvies. The stuff misted up their office till you could hardly see. But the bugs went.

And the depression. And the feeling of hopelessness.

Best turnover figures in twenty years.

Management got the message after that.

New offices in a new building. Everybody motivated.

Something else seemed to have happened too.

They kept the machine. Bought another two like it.

Something to do with keeping everybody healthy. Nobody ever pulled sickies when the rooms were sprayed.

Amazing that, really. Never getting sick again.

Because this was London, England – where everybody got colds, and colly-wobbles, and goodness know what.

Except not any more.

No germs, no sickness. Not a dickie-bird.

Smiley faces all round.

Time to celebrate – you need never catch an infection again

Happy, happy! You've survived the germs AGAIN!
Happy, happy! You’ve survived the germs AGAIN!

Congratulations. Your body has just survived exposure to 29,743,987,435 germs.

That’s about how many surround you at any one time.

And congratulations. Thirty seconds later, and you’ve just done it again.

Only this time it’s 32,867,201,591 germs. And no, they’re not the same ones.

They just keep coming and coming and your body has to cope with this onslaught every second of every day.

Don’t believe it?

When was the last time you stood waiting in the Underground, and your face got blasted with dust?

And how many dust particles do you reckon that was? 8 million? 80 million?

OK, now your average virus or bacteria is probably around a million times smaller than a single speck of dust.

Smaller than the pollen that gives you hay fever. Smaller than the particles in cigarette smoke. Smaller than droplets of water vapour in a cloud. So really, really tiny, it’s why you can’t see them at all.

But they’re there alright.

You wouldn’t walk into a room full of people with bird flu, would you? But you can’t see the bird flu. So how do you know it’s there?

But it’s not just the bird flu you have to worry about. It’s the 23,849,362,072 other viruses and bacteria floating around. By the way congratulations. You’ve just survived again.

But what if you didn’t?

What if you forgot to wash your hands , just the once? Or breathed something in? Or did something stupid like the philosopher Sir Francis Bacon back in 1626?

Famously in March of that year, he was driving in his carriage when it occurred to him to check out how coldness might affect the decay of meat. He stopped, bought a chicken, had the guts pulled out, and crouched down on the ice to stuff it full of snow, right there and then.

Spot the mistake?

Yeah, he caught a chill so bad that he couldn’t go home. So they took him to his pal’s house, the Earl of Arundel, put him to bed. It didn’t help. The chill became pneumonia and the poor bloke conked on 9th April.

Oh, and by the way, congratulations again.

Maybe now you’ve got some idea of how much hazard we all face, every single day. And it gets worse when we’re all together.

Some of us are healthier than others. And as we know well, very often the sick ones pass on their germs. Because the one particular bug is more concentrated in their system and ready to invade.

So down we come with the bug and we didn’t even do anything!

All unnecessary.

Because, as we have known since the Nineteenth Century – only 200 years after Bacon’s time – ALL germs die if we clobber them with hydrogen peroxide.

And if we get clever with Twenty-First Century technology, we can spray it up in the air in an ultra-fine mist and knock out every single one of them in an average room in just 20 minutes.

No congratulations this time because there aren’t any germs any more. The place is sterile.

Still cause for celebration though.

For the first time in history, you’re safe. You can’t get ill because nothing can touch you.

So why don’t we do this all the time – in schools, restaurants, hotels, offices, everywhere?

No idea, you tell us.

Which makes us just as stupid as Sir Francis. All of us.

Why let disaster happen when you don’t have to?

Better stay off the chicken and bacon – just in case.

But at least you’re safe =- at least for now.

Because there’s one more thing.

You have to keep at it with the hydrogen peroxide because the germs come back.

People bring them in on their clothes, or let them waft in when they enter.

So congratulations again. You just survived another 35,987,061,362 potential infections.

But you could get awfully hammered, celebrating all the time.

Why do we let so many people get sick needlessly?

Girl covered in dirt
Most of the time, when we get sick, it’s our own fault

Don’t blame it on the hospitals or NHS.

They’re busy with so many patients, a lapse now and again is inevitable. And they’re dedicated professionals. Committed, every one of them.

If you’ve ever been in for surgery – and watched with honest eyes instead of the hysteria mind-set the media luck on to you – you’d see hard-working people doing their best and going the extra mile every day.

So the message to 99.9% of the people who complain is… “Back off!”

Most of the time you are your own cause of being ill.

Why?

Because your hygiene isn’t good enough that’s why – completely up to maggots

Already we’ve got the hand hygiene people going crazy, reminding us to wash our hands at every critical moment.

And it’s not that it’s not effective.

It’s despite being politely reminded as often as possible, most of us just don’t do it.

But there’s another reason why we get sick so often – one that most of us, including the NHS are most of the time simply not aware of.

The illnesses we get are from airborne germs – not physical contact.

Well there’s a surprise.

And something else we’re not aware of – we’re surrounded and covered by billions and billions of germs every second of every day. Viruses, bacteria, too small for the eye to see – thousands of times smaller than even a grain of dust.

So is it any wonder that we don’t breathe one in, or gobble it down, or get one through a cut? And still our bodies are so savvy that most of the time we’re OK!

What it means though, is that we can’t take chances. Do something stupid and we WILL pay for it.

Especially with so many of us so close together, sharing the same air, eating in the same place, even sleeping. Packed into tube trains, jostling each other in fast food joints, crowded like sardines into holiday hotels.

No wonder a nasty like norovirus goes through us like wild fire – we’re all on top of each other.

But here’s another surprise – sloppy hygienists and NHS please take note.

We none of us need to catch any of those bugs milling around. We already have a way to get rid of them. Not a secret weapon, just something that most of us don’t know about.

And it means we can zap germs before they get to us.

ALL viruses, ALL bacteria, including the horrible ones – c.difficile, MRSA, H1N1, SARS, HIV-1, e. coli, anthrax, bird flu, salmonella. Or even the ones that have us scared stiff. Like smallpox, malaria or even ebola.

Hit any of them with hydrogen peroxide while they’re still up in their air and they’re goners.

Yup, hydrogen peroxide. The same stuff that girls use to go blonde. That our white blood cells manufacture as a defence against a cut or other injury.

But with a difference.

Ionised first so it can be misted up into the air, smaller and finer than drops of water. Electrostatically charged so it reaches out and grabs onto any pathogens it finds. Spreading deep into cracks and underneath things where cleaning gets forgotten.

What happens next is murder. Which is what the germs do to you if you let them.

The hydrogen peroxide shoves extra atoms of oxygen at the individual cells of bacteria and viruses, ripping them to shreds. And there’s no germ comes back from being hit by H2O2. They’re gone for good and you’re 99.9999% safe.

So how come we’re not using this stuff everywhere? In hotels, schools, public building, restaurants, buses, trains, everywhere?

Because we don’t know about it is why. In the same way that, once upon a time, we all of us thought the world was flat.

But it isn’t flat, it’s round.

And hydrogen peroxide could save your life over and over – if only you knew about it.

Well if you’ve read this far, now you do.

Which means if you ever get needlessly sick again, it’s YOUR fault.

Time to get a grip. Those NHS people have still got serious cases to deal with – injuries, children, old people – and all the other ailments that happen once germs have taken hold.

Let’s salute them and give them a rest.

Because now we know, we can fix it.

Keep well!

It’s not the smell that makes you sick – it’s the germs

Class of school children
Heroes are people who make germs go away, like our teacher

It started out as Coronation Chicken on a crispy baguette – big enough to stop the most ravenous appetite with some left over.

It was the left-over that was the problem.

When the builders finished at the school, the summer holidays had three-and-a-half weeks left to run.

Three-and-a-half weeks with no air conditioning and ventilation. By which time the classroom for 4CH was decidedly ripe.

Opening the windows sort of fixed it. But of course the school had to be locked up at night. Air fresheners didn’t crack it either. A few seconds of lavender, then back to the yuck.

Allan Armstrong was the caretaker. He’d been there for yonks and knew just what was needed. A good swab out with a hefty dose of bleach would sort it, no problem.

Unfortunately, it made it worse. The smell was so strong it made the kids’ eyes run. Christa Holmfirth, their teacher, went further and burst into tears.

The classroom had to be abandoned, displacing them all to the assembly hall – unwanted, unloved and shoved to one side.

But tears or not, Christa was no helpless female.

Determined, she braved the classroom during her lunch break and tracked the smell down to the new panelling under the windows.

The heck with asking for permission, she kicked it in with her shoe, snapping the heel in the process – and there was this crinkled packet, half-covered with green gunge.

Smell was one thing, but what kind of GERMS were her children going to come down with? The thing must be crawling with bacteria.

She took it out at arm’s length and marched it to the wheelie-bin behind the school kitchen.

Her colleagues complained that she was stinking the place out.

Then they looked at her face. Whatever they said, Christa was taking no prisoners. And they shrank visibly when she pulled the aerosol out of her handbag.

She showed them the label. Total release fogger – kills germs in seconds. Clobbering the smell did nothing, so she was going to sterilise the whole room.

Fighting her nausea, she went back to the classroom and shut all the windows. She put the aerosol on a desk in the middle, pressed the button and actually ran for the door as if the smell we attacking her.

It took five minutes for the sick feeling to die down. By that time, as she saw through the glass panel, the room looked like a sauna gone wrong, everything ghostly in a cloud of mist.

Her big mistake was telling the kids about it, they wanted to see too. Well, you try telling thirty excited kids with no home that their classroom is full of fog. They were kids and curious.

Curious, but not brave enough to go in. Which was probably just as well.

Christa’s aerosol was based on ammonium chloride, a lighter than air mist which killed germs by oxidising them – ripping them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Lower powered than the super-oxidiser, hydrogen peroxide, but it did the business.Handy in an aerosol too.

Not harmful, but not a good idea to breathe in either.

Twenty minutes later, the room was clear – and the other teachers were complaining about the noise in the passage. Christa went first and opened all the windows wide.

“Oooh!” They all stood there sniffing.

Christa was in tears again. Because the smell was gone. No stink, no germs, her kids were safe.

Which made the waterworks start Big Time. Difficult to resist when a bunch of eight-year-olds suddenly burst out clapping.

Miss Holmfirth, their heroine. The most popular Year Four teacher in UK.

Until we start cleaning the air, we’re always going to catch germs

Girl swamped in germs
You can’t see germs, but they’re always there – waiting to get you and make you ill

No, no, not pollution – not just smoke and dust and airborne waste, but actually purging the air itself free of harmful bacteria.

Because like it or not – germs, viruses, bacteria, pathogens, whatever you want to call these horrible bugs  – are all in the air, all the time. Billions and billions of them, too small for the eye to see. So tiny that several million of them would fit on the head of a pin.

You’ve seen dust move on the air, swirling around, up there for days. Well imagine stuff that is tinier than that, so light it rides the air for ever, sometimes never settling at all. That’s how germs move about, hoping to catch on one of us and make us ill. To feed and breed on us until we die.

Yes they spread by contact too, from somebody who is infected. But don’t kid yourself you’re safe, just by keeping your distance. If there’s germs in the room – and there always are –  chances are good some that some of them will land on you.

Just maybe not enough of them to do any harm.

You see, just one or two of them have still got to get through your skin, into your lungs or digestive system.

Somehow they’ve got to get through the acid mantle, the protective dermis itself, then beat the antibodies in white blood cells – neutrophils, leukocytes that trigger hydrogen peroxide, the body’s own natural germ killer that oxidises them to nothing.

No chance, right? A suicide mission.

But not the same when some sneezes all over you, or glad-hands you from their hospital bed.
That’s not individual cells any more – there’s several million in a gob of snot or sneeze-spray – even more with skin-to-skin contact.

Boom. Right there, they gotcha. You are now infected.

And all the time we’re running round, scrubbing hands, clothes, counters, worktops, tables and whatever, convinced we’re protecting ourselves.

Well yes, we are – from the 20% of germs that have actually settled on objects around us.

The other 80% are still swirling around – in singles, in clumps, and sometimes dirty great droplets, just waiting to get us. And if we’re careless, they will.

So how do we scrub the air – as well as all the work surfaces and stuff?

Same way the body does, with hydrogen peroxide.

Mist up a sealed room with ionised hydrogen peroxide spray and it’s airborne, just like the germs are. It’s light too, finer than water droplets – electrostatically charged to reach out and grab onto things like viruses and bacteria.

Boom, boom. It’s backatcha with oxygen atoms that rip the germ cells to pieces. Bye-bye bio-thugs, they’re dead and gone.

Forty minutes or so later, you’re in a room that’s totally sterilised. No bacteria, nothing.

Even the hydrogen peroxide’s gone too – as it releases those oxidising atoms, it decomposes into just oxygen and water. Actually water vapour which evaporates, because there’s no trace of drops or anything.

Trouble is though, not enough of us know we should do this. We’re still rushing around, slaving at floors and surfaces and wiping our hands with gel, hoping we’ll get away with it.

Not wrong. But not enough. Clean is not necessarily safe.

To beat germs and win, we need to fight the other 80% as well. Because until we do, we’re all going to catch a bug. Sooner or later.

Atishoo!

And bless you. Have a nice day.

Keeping kids healthy – daydream or nightmare?

Girl with tissue
Germs in the air – catching as long as they’re there

Roula chose Budding Leaf for the name of her nursery school. It seemed perfect for young minds and bodies starting out and growing up.

Mums loved it too. There were plants all over the place and an adventure garden outside for when the weather was good. And every child had a growing patch of their own. A place to grow carrots, or lavender, or whatever.

The first year was fantastic. A nice bunch of children, a glowing write-up in the local glossy, smiling faces at the bank. A real story-book success.

The second year was great too – for the first three days.

Then the coughs and sneezes started. And the upchucks. Went round the little ones like wildfire.

It was the slippery slope. Parents all aggro and swearing, double-parked to rescue their darlings. The awful CLOSED sign. Neighbours looking daggers. Police ranting about causing obstructions. The community people demanding an inspection.

The doc put Roula on Xanax. Her husband took the double scotch option. Neither of them knew what the heck had hit them. First-time victims. Severe After-Holiday-itis.

Why? The whole place was spotless. Roula did the charring herself every afternoon. The front room, the loo, the whole disinfectant and air freshener treatment.

Her husband, Matt, made the connection. Stuck on the wall in the “What I did for the holidays” drawings. Long-distance bugs, brought home on the plane from Phuket, Kerala, Fuerteventura and Orlando. And that twinge of upchuck from little Ravi – that kind of smell never went away.

Aeroplane-flu or runny tummy, it didn’t matter. With the kids all together, they had to come down with it. And the germs hung in the air at the end of the day. Ready to have another go if the first time didn’t work.

Orlando. Disney spells. One of the Mums had brought her a goody-bag. Roula half-looked at it, thinking about the closing notices she would have to send out.

Half-wrapped in a Cruella de Vil T-shirt was an aerosol can. Total release fogger – kills germs in seconds. A curiosity from her friend Siobhan, as OCD about hygiene as she was.

Germs in the air. Roula hadn’t thought of that. Coughing, sneezing, of course. No wipe-down would ever fix it, no matter how thorough. What they breathed was not sterilised.

She put the can in the middle of the floor, shut the windows and doors, pressed the button and left. Then peered in from outside to watch what it did. Billowing clouds of white nothing. Her heart sank.

An hour later she dared to open the door. No cloud, no smell. The lingering pong of upchuck was gone. Nothing else, but it felt fresh, with a slight lemony tang.

Right there and then, her confidence spiked and she took the CLOSED sign off the front door. Budding Leaf was back in business and she would tough it out.

There were stayaways of course. Ravi with his Delhi-belly. Trinity and Andrew with their sniffles. The Allen twins with their funny cough. Half the school.

But the next day was a gas and nobody got sick or anything. The germs were gone.

Of course Roula was on the phone to Siobhan for more of the stuff. And Siobhan didn’t know. She’d lifted it from the room-valeting trolley as a lark. Total room steriliser, had to be good for something.

It took Roula a day on the phone and another on the Internet. Now Budding Leaf gets treated every night with hydrogen peroxide. Cost a bit to set it up, but all the Mums were up for it. Sterilised nursery school – what was not to like?

Budding Leaf is moving next spring. A bigger place round the corner. They need it for all the extra kids. Extra healthy kids. The local glossy made a big thing about that too.