Woh, scary headlines.
Enough to make you ill by themselves.
Seems wherever we turn, we’re swamped by germs.
On everything we touch. On everything we eat. Even inside us – like the 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut.
OK, so because there’s germs everywhere, we’re told to wash our hands. Doing it properly with plain soap and water, rinsed and towelled off gets rid of 99.9% of germs – good.
Except then we go and touch something – the infested screen on our smartphone or whatever – and the germs come back again. Why do we bother? And why aren’t they carting us off in an ambulance, right now?
Miracle immune system
Basically, because our bodies are the amazing thing they are.
What’s the bet, until the media started with all the Wash Your Hands hoo-hah, you never thought about it much, did you? You didn’t have a problem, life was pretty normal – and the idea that your desk might have more germs than a sewer never occurred to you.
Which is why, like so many of the rest of us, washing your hands keeps slipping off the radar. Your hands LOOK clean, you don’t get sick – where’s the fire?
Uh huh. But you ARE playing with matches.
The only thing between the everyday you and being rushed to A&E is your truly miraculous immune system.
Yes, the germs on your desk DO get on your hands. They ARE transferred to your mouth (the average person touches their face 3 to 5 times every minute). And they DO wind up in your gut.
So where’s the norovirus? The e.coli? The staphylococcus aureus? The campylobacter? Or something really deadly, like multiple sclerosis, AIDS, or cancer?
Well, among the many astounding things that they do, this where the 100 trillion bacteria in your gut come in. Aside from digesting food types we can’t do on our own, feeding our brain, and protecting us from food poisoning – they boost our immune function by outcompeting harmful pathogens.
Which comes back to the washing your hands thing.
Yes, you do swallow some bugs when you eat, that’s inevitable. But not as many as you might if you didn’t wash your hands.
So when it comes to outcompeting the bad guys down in your stomach, the odds are better than they were.
That yummy burger was zero germs when it left the grill – too hot for any to survive. Picked up a mess of e.coli though – from the print button on the photocopier. Down the hatch without you knowing – potential tummy explosion, right there.
Except your own gut bacteria ganged up against it. Gave it the treatment – like a jewel thief in some long-ago legendary bazaar. Problem sorted – and you never felt a thing.
Always under threat
Thing is though, the body is always at risk. And always on alert for surprise attacks.
Most of the time you’re OK because your immune system knows your environment. The expected germs are compensated for and everything stays normal.
Normal, that is, for you.
Except you’re not always alone, are you? There’s other people at work, at school, in the shops – or sitting at the restaurant table beside you. And what’s normal for you is not necessarily normal for them.
They might give you a bug, you might give them one. An out-of-the-ordinary pathogen your gut bacteria is not ready for. Behaves different, too big, too small, too armour-plated against the usual enzymes they produce.
Plus, chances are likely you have an underlying condition of some kind. Most of us do. Some weakness your body hasn’t been concerned with until now. An infection as a child that left one of your kidneys weak. Slight asthma from the damp conditions in your workplace. An allergy to nuts or eggs that triggers anaphylactic shock.
And now there IS a problem. Your gut is in imbalance. You should’ve washed your hands, but who does going out to a restaurant? And you got unlucky, using the salad servers at the buffet. An unusual germ for you, transferred from your fingers to the breadstick.
Again, it shouldn’t be a problem – not if your immune system is fully up and working – if your gut bacteria are fully prepared for everything that’s coming.
Trouble is, there’s a hiccup – and it’s caused by antibiotics.
Nothing to do with you mind, you know zip about it. But, like a lot of us, you enjoy a high proportion of meat and dairy in your diet. And out in cattle farms, antibiotics are used on an industrial scale – not to make animals healthy, but to fatten them up faster.
You like milk shakes, so your own gut bacteria have been hit by antibiotics. Built up over time from your tea, coffee, breakfast cereal – and steady progression from vanilla, to chocolate, to banana, to caramel flavours.
Result? Well, you might not have a fungal infection yet – a common antibiotic side effect – but you are out of balance and your system is down. Shoulda, woulda, coulda washed your hands, shouldn’t you? Your only protection, this time round.
It CAN be easier, though not everywhere is doing it yet.
But count on it, as winter crowds us more together – and as more and more antibiotics are given out for colds, flu and all kinds of things that we strongarm our doctors for but shouldn’t – non-medical germ control is going to be on the up.
Press-button germ rescue
Right now, in your workplace, your kid’s school, public places – even trains, planes and buses – it’s possible to mist up everywhere with super-fine hydrogen peroxide spray, and oxidise ALL germs to oblivion. And that means everywhere, in the air, on surfaces – even into cracks and crevices where ordinary scrub cleaning never reaches.
The machine that does it is a Hypersteriliser – looks like a kind of electronic wheelie-bin – and all it takes is around forty minutes, depending on room size. All germs gone, completely. Kind of reassuring when you read those headlines back again.
Your desk infested with nasties and all that stuff. Overnight, gone. Totally sterile, for you and your colleagues too.
What germs, where?