How keeping up with fashion could save your life

Girl looking at handbag
Not so good-looking when your personal go-everywhere companion is full of germs

Start with your handbag. How much more fashion does it get?

The latest from Prada or Hermes could set you back a fortune – and they only last a season. After that, they’re last year. Or last century. Gotta keep up.

Of course not all of us can stretch to a designer original.

But there’s still plenty reason to splash out on the latest, particularly your bag. And the best excuse ever.

Germs.

Well think about it. You carry it with you everywhere, you’ve got your whole life in there. But how often do you you clean it? REALLY clean it, that is – making sure the whole thing is safe and disinfected?

Far from soap and water

Because you do it with your hands don’t you? Wash before eating and after the loo, the hygiene part of keeping neat and presentable.

Meanwhile your bag goes through everything with you – trusty, reliable, always to hand. But pretty well every day without a bath. Plenty of opportunity for germs to get in there – and they do.

Only last week an independent laboratory report turned up a whole host of possible life-threatening bacteria in bags only a few months old. Nearly all of them were positive for serratia, enterobacter, aeromonas, staphylococcus epidermidis. pediococcus, hafnia and proteus.

Or worse, alive with potential threats leading to pneumonia, urinary tract infections, septicaemia, meningitis, diarrhoea, and soft tissue disorders. Exactly the fashion items nobody wants.

Oh sure, sure – you can try cleaning your bag. Climbing in with antibacterial wipes or whatever. Not likely to be effective because they don’t have the firepower. Not potent enough, not enough contact time. Most likely of all, unable get into every little fold and corner.

And you’re not likely to try anything too strong are you? It might stain or attack the lining – or make the whole thing smell of bleach. Impossible, right?

Saved by fashion

Time to go shopping – and treat yourself to a new one. Right in fashion and bang up to date. As if you could hold back your enthusiasm!

But think further and it’s not just handbags. There’s a whole slew of other fashion items to justify your indulgence too. Good, clean, hygienic reasons to replace what you have, because sterilising them is too hazardous or too difficult.

Washable clothes, for instance. Anything with pockets – jeans, shirts, whatever – where germs are most likely to gather. You probably wouldn’t hot-wash them – colours would run and they’d lose their texture.

But those gentle cold water washes will do zip for your health. To be sure of clobbering most germs, water needs to be at least 60⁰C – too hot to hold your hand under. They need time at that temperature too – exactly how to make things shrink so you’ll never get into them.

Actually, the germ problem sits with everything personal that takes a lot of handling. So the safe route is to disinfect what you can and replace what you can’t.

Personal threats all round

Your phone, keys, money and cosmetics containers can all be wiped down – good reason to carry antibacterial wipes everywhere. Wallets and purses too – not forgetting make-up or toiletries bags.

And if you need convincing, take a look at the smudges and smears on your touchscreen after only a few minutes. Them’s germs, waiting to get you. And being ill is never in fashion.

It’s less easy with bigger items equally as personal – especially with cold weather coming. Coats and jackets have pockets where things get put and long forgotten. They’re not cleaned every day either, maybe not even for a whole winter. All kinds of nasties in there, ew!

OK, so dry clean them.

Not as safe as replacing. The heat is not hot enough or long enough to be sure of killing germs. And the perchlorethylene solvent most cleaners use only partially kills bacteria.

How about gloves and scarves?

Total germ factories – outside and in.

Clean hands made dirty

Outside of course, gloves touch everything that everybody else does – handles, grab rails, knobs, hanging straps, push bars, balustrades – everything in the tube, on the bus. Comes the end of the day – total yuck. And we still grab them in our teeth while we scramble for our front door keys!

Inside is even riskier because we never think to clean them. And our hands go in after whatever they’re been doing. Sometimes clean, most often not – picking up a growing colony of germs that never get looked at. And who ever cleans gloves?

Different materials, silk, leather and wool. Pull skew, shrink, distort and probably easily strained by the cleaner too. Doable but difficult. Replace, replace, replace. You get the picture.

And scarves wrapped round your face? All those germs near your mouth and nose? Do yourself a favour!

All of which is why buying new is good for your health – and could actually save your life. You’re in fashion and the pink of good health too.

Clever you. Good-looking too.

Picture Copyright: micchaelpuche / 123RF Stock Photo

Why soap and water will soon be saving your life

Teddy in washer
So simple – soap and water is a lot easier than going to the Doc all the time

Count on it, in the very near future, your life will depend on soap and water.

They will be the only thing between you and certain death.

Good old lifesavers

So how you use them  – or whether you use them at all – is already a lot more critical than you might ever imagine.

Because in your lifetime – and sooner rather than later – our wonder-drug antibiotics will no longer work. Bacterial superbugs will have mutated to become totally resistant to them.

Which means – going back to the dark ages before penicillin was discovered – that no longer will we be protected from our own adventurousness, recklessness, clumsiness, or foolhardiness.

Our new killers

Overnight, almost everything and anything could be the death of us.

  • Eating meat — bacteria in meat is increasingly resistant to antibiotics and can kill us.
  • A cut or scratch — before penicillin, 1 in 9 skin infections killed.
  • Any surgical cut or incision — openings for even minor ops leave us open to infection.
  • Dialysis or blood transfusion — any open blood vessel is susceptible to sepsis.
  • Insect bites — especially the itchy ones, leading to infections from scratching.
  • Colds or flu — even mild infections cause pneumonia. Without antibiotics, 30% of cases kill.
  • Childbirth — which used to kill 5 mothers out of 1000, and more by Caesarean.
  • Any cannula, ventilator or catheter.
  • Surgical implants like artificial hips or pacemakers.
  • Burns of any kind —the most infection-prone type of wound.
  • Cosmetic surgery — without antibiotics, even Botox injections is no longer risk free.
  • Tattoos — even the slightest skin blemish is open to infection.

So if anything happens to us, anything physical that is, about the only thing we’ll be able to do is wash it clean with soap and water. And properly, not just waggling around under the tap. Because if we’re suddenly socked by bacteria threatening enough to need antibiotics and soap and water is our defence, we’ve got to relearn everything there is about proper hygiene.

And here’s why. Right now:

Make no mistake either, it’s ONLY soap and water that will do the job.

Why wipes wipe out

Antibacterial wipes are out of it – for the simple reason that bacteria are able to resist them too, as researchers at Cardiff University have recently demonstrated.  And if MRSA, clostridium difficile and acinetobacter are able develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR), so can others. Worse, the wipes transfer resistant bacteria from one place to another, SPREADING contamination further.

Antibacterial soap suffers the same defect.

Why?

The triclosan ingredient mostly widely used to deter bacteria is shown by the US Centers for Disease Control to be itself prone to AMR, to the extent that major manufacturers are voluntarily withdrawing it and hunting for alternatives.

How about antibacterial gel?

Same only different. The active ingredient is alcohol, which breaks down the proteins of bacteria and some viruses, but not all of them. And without antibiotics to protect us, we don’t want something which does half the job.

Low tech and easy

Which brings us back to soap and water. Low tech, yes, but maybe cleverer than we think.

For one thing, most bacteria are either harmless or benign. So although we’re surrounded by them, we don’t want to wash off all of them – some of our usually resident “citizens” might actually be doing us some good. Soap and water action lets us keep these guys, but gets rid of the toxic “tourists” who might be threatening us.

Yeah, so rediscovering hygiene is not exactly going to kill us. Quite the opposite.

And as we’ve probably heard endlessly from our grandmothers, a little soap and water never hurt anyone.

Picture Copyright: kalcutta / 123RF Stock Photo