We control our own destiny more than we think.
Yes, we choose our own directions – and yes, we drive ourselves at our own pace. It’s by our own efforts, or not at all.
But pretty well none of it is possible without hands. They are the do-ers that make things happen – that turn ideas into reality.
Amazing things, really. They do everything, go everywhere.
And that’s the problem.
Because the things they touch are seldom pure. Like everything else in this world, they’re covered in bacteria – some good, some bad. Many transferred on contact to our fingertips or palms.
Germs, right? Invisible microorganisms that can make you very ill or kill you. Impossible to avoid and a continual mission to get rid of. Which effectively means you’re at hazard all of the time.
Well, sort of.
World’s smallest killers
To a virus or bacteria that’s barely a thousandth of a micron across, your hand is an armour-plated tank. Tough and chemically hostile, it offers no way in to the body – an impenetrable no-go barrier to infecting a meal-ticket host.
Ain’t nothing to do with a surface like that except hang on. Which plenty of germs do – upwards of three million of them, around us like an aura every day.
Because it’s what our hands do next that matters.
Touching other stuff.
Keyboard, phone, door-handle, document, money, clothing, loo seat, poo, wee, Coke bottle, chips, tomato sauce – these are all what are called “fomites”, made famous by Kate Winslet’s character Dr. Erin Mears in the movie Contagion.
Fomites are substances or objects that can transfer germs – your handbag, keys, scarf, watch-strap – triggering a whole roller-coaster ride of infection – where germs get to meet other germs, and gang up together for fun, fun, fun.
Spot the missing touch?
You got it. Your face. Otherwise known as germ heaven. The guaranteed way in for infection – through your mouth, up your nose, in the sensitive bits round your eyes, even your ears.
And without thinking of it, we touch our faces two or three times a minute – that’s up to three thousand times a day! Three thousand germ-entry opportunities every day of your life.
The missing obsession
Which kind of emphasises the other missing touch – soap and water.
Most of the time we’re so full of ourselves rushing around, we don’t really think of washing hands. Yet if you think of the fomites we encounter doing that, we’re at hazard all the time.
Yes, it is possible to get some protection. Wash everything – tables, plates, knives, forks. Disinfect everything – loos, wash basins, kitchen sinks. All the schlep of daily life.
It’s even possible to sterilise all around us. A dose of UV radiation or misting up the place with hydrogen peroxide will clobber all viruses and bacteria down to nothing – even killers like bubonic plague and Ebola.
But it’s all kind of useless if we traipse into our specially sterilised room and shake hands for an interview straight after a nervous but necessary dash to the WC.
At your peril
Washed your hands?
Er, yes, but that quick rinse under the tap doesn’t crack it. And using the pull-down towel doesn’t help. When the roll is finished, everybody’s germs all wind up on the same piece of cotton.
Ask any medic, and they’ll tell you that a proper scrub-up to get rid of germs takes at least five minutes. And that’s a schlep too – seriously hot water, scouring underneath and scrubbing your nails, getting right down between your fingers – then disposable towels or an air dryer.
And it all needs to be done again as soon as you touch something!
So the Hand Hygiene brigade are not so paranoid after all. This is the flu season, with all kinds of other nasties lurking out there as well – norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter. You can blame other circumstances just so far, but you’ve got to come to the party as well.
Just like everything in life, isn’t it? Keep your hands clean, or it will come back to bite you.
Because it’s pretty silly to die for something that isn’t necessary.
Originally posted on 2 August 2018 @ 7:09 am