Not washing hands is like not wearing a seat belt

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Woman fasteing seat belt
Splish-splash or clunk-click – soap and water can save your life too

It’s truer than you know, that your life is in your hands.

Because your hands are your life.

Helpless, hopeless

Without them, you could do very little.

All those everyday things would be impossible – eating, drinking, touching, feeling, holding, carrying, lifting, taking, giving.

Not much of a life when they’re gone, hey?

Which practically means that you rely on your hands for everything about living. Your physical involvement to the whole world around you.

You touch everything. And everything touches you.

Which gets a bit awkward sometimes. Yucky stuff sticks to your fingers and won’t come off. Or mud and dirt. Or noxious poo.

And because you can SEE the crud on your hands, you wash them off. Good, Jim.

Microscopic life threats

But how about when you can’t see stuff?

Because that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Yes, viruses and bacteria – that kind of junk. So small, you can’t see them without a microscope – and even then you need the high-powered kind.

So what? you say. You’ve read somewhere we’re all surrounded with germs – billions and billions of them all the time. You’re still perfectly fine and healthy, what difference does one more make?

Ah, that depends on the germ. The wrong one in the wrong place, and you look pretty stupid.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to get typhoid or cholera on you, right? Or those ones you keep reading about like HIV or Ebola?

Uh huh. So how do you know you’re NOT getting one, right now?

So that when you touch your face – which all of us do 2,000 to 3,000 times a day – an infection can’t get in through the soft tissue of your eyes, nose and mouth, turning you into a basket case, or vegetable, or worse?

The wrong kind of bacteria

Sure, you’re surrounded by bacteria, your body’s even colonised with them – 10 times more of them than there are of you, 100 trillion cells. But they’re all in harmony, all in balance. Without them, you’d soon be in trouble – they’re SUPPOSED to be there.

But it only takes one of the bad guys to put you in hospital. Oxygen, blood transfusions, antibiotics.

And then they find out, like Ebola, that the damn stuff is resistant to everything. None of the medicines work. Whoops, sorry!

Yeah, like you weren’t wearing a seat belt. Or you went to sleep on the dotted line in the middle of the road. Exactly the same chance you take when you don’t wash your hands.

Most of the time you get away with it.

Crash, bang, wallop

Then one day out of the blue, somebody rear-ends you in a multiple shunt because of motorway fog. Straight through the windscreen – and your head and five ribs suddenly discover why they call it the “hard shoulder”.

Sure, the guy you hit was in the wrong place at wrong time.

So was the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in the web between your finger and thumb. You aren’t coming back from a dose of that stuff unless you’re very, very lucky and have very, very good doctors.

Because no medicine works on it – you and your immune system are on your own.

Not so smart-ass now that you’re always surrounded by bacteria, hey? It only takes one.

The same in your car. One little thing out of place.

You don’t know that a stone’s cut your brake lines and you’ve no way of stopping. Or the driver of that HGV is about to have a heart attack, and smash through the central Armco, head-on into you.

No soap and water. No clunk-click. Same difference.

Waiting to happen

It can happen any time – and it will.

The same with the germs around you, in your working and living space. Some on your hands, some you breathe in.

Not every place stops them with a Hypersteriliser and its ionised hydrogen peroxide mist – the crash helmet to go with the seat belt.

So you can’t always assume all germs are taken out and you’re safe.

Which means do it, every time you think of it. Wash your hands – especially after the loo and before food.

Your life depends on it, better believe it.

Because when it finally does happen, the cramps, upchucks and diarrhoea you go through from even something “harmless” like norovirus, is a million times worse than the £100 fixed penalty fine for forgetting your seat belt.