Tag Archives: rhinovirus

Keep hand-wipes handy – or get wiped out!

Cabin attendant
Welcome aboard. Please make sure your hands are germ-free for take-off!

Seat 11B is a nice place to be.

Next to your squeeze. In front of the wing. Nice big window to check the scene on approach.

Weekend getaway. Or company perk.

Good to get some time to yourself.

Just don’t touch that tray-table in front of you.

At least, not until you’ve wiped it.

Not with a tissue either, but with those antiseptic hand-wipes your bought before boarding.

Unwanted passengers

That THING carries more germs than anywhere else on the plane. Eight times more than the flush button in the loo. And way more than any place in your home – 2,155 colony-forming bacteria per square inch.

That’s 337,796 bacteria crammed onto your lap-sized 16½ by 9½ inch eating space!

Not surprising when you see how some people leave the place when they get off. And the poor airline’s only got twenty minutes on the ground before they’re up and flying again. No chance.

OK, so you’re not going to eat. Spoil your dinner at that posh restaurant you’re going to when you land.

Spoil your dinner anyway if you touch that thing without wiping it down.

But just sitting there with your iPad means the backs of your hands are in contact. And you’re not going to believe it, the average person touches their face 3 to 5 times every waking minute – an unconscious reflex that all of us have.

So you may not ingest those germs from eating, they’ll get in anyway through your mouth or eye openings – you do it to yourself without knowing.

And what surprises can you expect to find?

Stowaway germs

Poo for a start. Those tray tables sometimes get used to change nappies. But poo anyway because so few people wash their hands after going to the loo. Which means high risk of everybody’s holiday favourite norovirus at the very least.

Rhinoviruses (common cold types), influenza, MRSA, E-coli and listeria too.

So it’s not just the tray table you’re going to wipe is it?

You’re going to do your hands too – probably more than once. Whenever you think about it. Whenever you touch something that could harbour germs.

And since it’s a few hours before you land, you’ll have time to reflect on the need to keep doing it when you get off the plane too.

That posh restaurant for example, your special reward for yourself. There’s other people there too, all dolled up to the nines like you.

Impressive, yes. But when did they last wash their hands?

Maybe they showered coming straight from the office. Or maybe they just togged up and ran. Don’t want to waste valuable drinking time – sorry, socialising time.

Unseen party-killers

Except part of this place’s charm is self-service. Eat-as-much-as-you-like – smorgasbord, salad bar, you name it. And all those other people are touching the same serving spoons and forks that you are. You with your antiseptic-wiped hands, them straight in off the street.

Which is why you keep wipes on you all the time of course. You can’t always get to a washroom. And they wipe goo off your hands, which always seems to get on there when you don’t want it – something those antiseptic gels just can’t.

Worth it too – it only takes a few moments. And the food is every bit as amazing as you hoped it would be.

Those other folk from the plane are eating here too. Another getaway couple. Give them a wave. They’re not carrying wipes like you are, so that e.coli attack is going to mess up their whole time here.

Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

All the time, always

Yup, now you’re thinking, it should be a life-time habit.

Not just for your hands. Not just for your tray table. There’s your office desk as well. Didn’t you read somewhere that the average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat?

Come to that, the office should get a Hypersteriliser as well. So should this restaurant. Sterilise the place properly.

People walk around with 10 million viruses and bacteria on their hands most of the time – trailing a whole bio-cloud of several trillion others. Locked in here overnight, they’re just waiting for new victims to walk in tomorrow.

But not if they’re knocked out with hydrogen peroxide plasma. The whole place is sterile – safe like your hands are.

Hmm, what will that couple do when the e.coli strikes?

Claim food poisoning? Sue the restaurant? They wipe themselves out, then they want to wipe out their hosts.

Which could never be you of course.

Your hands are clean.

Rhinovirus: why this tiny germ is one of our biggest headaches

Rhinoceros girl
Make no error, this is a mean, bad-tempered problem

It’s that time of the year again.

As soon as temperatures begin to dip, people start coming down with nasopharyngitis.

Naso-huh?

That’s the egghead’s name for the common cold – more familiar to us as a pain in the neck.

Dribbling misery

Wait, that’s not it either. Colds are commonly caused by rhinovirus. “Rhino” means nose, see – like that Flanders & Swann thing, “the bodger on the bonce” – which is where colds commonly affect us.

A piece of work, this rhinovirus. And like a rhinoceros itself, bad tempered and dangerous – probably because it’s so small, only 20 nanometres across (0.000002 millimetres).

At that size, it’s small enough to drop right through a roofing tile – if it had any weight.

Except being microscopically smaller than a piece of dust, it’s lighter than the air around it – all those molecules of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and all the other “gens” – plus all the pollution and dirt and other microbes hanging around there – you know, the stuff we breath in every few seconds.

It’s also not our only cause of catching a cold, just the most common – sharing its notoriety with around 200 other viruses, so no wonder it has a mean streak. A real full-blown Napoleon complex.

A real health hazard

Maybe your experience is just the runny nose, sneezing – and if you’re unlucky, the whole sore throat thing. Three days and you’re out of it, if the gods are smiling.

Trouble is, so many of us are not always 100% well. So that when rhinovirus strikes, it often triggers worsening of any underlying condition.

And that’s the dangerous bit – inner ear infections, sinusitis, asthma attacks, worsening COPD, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis and bronchitis. Not a thing to be played with.

Why does it strike in winter or when the body gets cold? Get drenched in the rain, even in summer, and your Mum screams, “get out of those wet things, you’ll catch your death.”

She’s right. Because rhinovirus thrives best at slightly below normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit – coolest in the nose, where cold winter air is breathed in and taken down to the lungs, another favourite rhino hangout. It literally likes to chill.

There’s also method in its being so small. It rides the air, spreading more easily. And as we all know, it’s highly contagious. Just one sneeze or cough from the gent with the rolled-up umbrella on the Victoria Line – and it’s the boiled knitting head, calling in a sickie at 7.00 o’clock next morning.

Highly contagious

But it’s not just the air. Rhinovirus spreads on contact with almost anything, the things we touch that transfer it to others – everyday fomites like coffee cups, knives and forks, the soap in the soap dish and even the towels we dry off with.

Dodgy this, because rhinovirus likes to get in mainly through the nose and mouth – and in addition to fomites, we touch our faces maybe 2,000 – 3,000 times a day. Airborne or by touch, if anybody around us has a cold, chances are high we’re going to get it. A real headache.

But we do have a defence. We might be touching infected objects without knowing it, but we can always wash our hands clean afterwards.

Doing it properly, working at it seriously with soap and water gets rid of 99.9% of most germs – what medics recognise as Sterility Assurance Level Log 1 – the most important step in safe hygiene. (The highest is Log 6 – like you get with a Hypersteriliser).

And it’s not just washing – it’s doing it constantly. Every sneeze, every face wipe, is a chance to pass it on to somebody else – you need to wash it off.

It’s likewise in avoiding a cold – particularly in winter when so many people have them. It just pays to wash your hands around anything they might have touched.

Wash, or wipe

Not exactly practical though, walking down the street or jumping on the bus – so a good back-up is to keep a pack of sanitising hand wipes on you at all times.

Nobody wants a cold, especially if you’re feeling slightly off with something else already. It’ll only make it worse, or turn into a full-grown attack.

And though we don’t actually think of the common cold as a killer, around 40,000 people die every year from a combination of colds, flu and low temperatures. Yup, we need to be careful.

Rhinovirus – nobody needs it.

But yes, you can wash your hands of it.

Good germs, bad germs – just make sure you’re safe

Good cop - bad cop
Invisible good and bad – one 10,000th of a millimetre in size

A bit of a head-scratcher this. Since our body cells are outnumbered by bacteria 10 to 1.

That’s 100 trillion microbes in the average HEALTHY body – believe it or not – bacteria and human beings getting along just fine.

Which raises a whole issue about keeping safe from germs.

Killing ourselves

Anything we might use to sanitise, disinfect or sterilise could actually attack us – killing some of the very bacteria we need to keep healthy.

You see, we’re not infested by these germs – like free-loaders out for what they can get. They pay rent to be with us. Especially with food intake and digestion.

That first hunger-driven chomp into a juicy burger meets over 7½ billion bacteria in the first second in your mouth – more than the number of people on Earth.

With every chew and swallow, a whole mess of processing takes place, preparing your food for being turned into energy – by the two to three POUNDS of bacteria that live in your gut.

Without them, no digestion. In fact you’d be pretty ill, all that food with nowhere to go, eventually poisoning your system.

Living with germs

So yeah, germs in our bodies.

Better take it easy with that chlorine bleach in the kitchen. That could bring big trouble – as your nose tells you by the way it bites. The body knows it’s harmful – and the smell you experience is a warning.

But you’ve got to get rid of germs, right? The bad things that kill.

The body is under threat when stuff decomposes or putrefies – blitz it fast, before you get infected!

Actually, there’s a whole bunch of experts who reckon we’re wrong to keep zapping germs. That our paranoia with pathogens indiscriminately kills good and bad alike, destroying useful microbes and upsetting the natural balance.

OK, we’ll buy it – but not all the time.

Away in the Great Outdoors, there’s not much we can do anyway. The wind blows, germs come and go – we could get infected any time.

Except we don’t usually – and one microbe by itself is not enough to take on the whole human body – unless it gets awful lucky. And ordinary air movement disperses germs anyway, so they don’t stand much chance.

Indoors, in danger

Anyway, we don’t live like that most of the time, do we?

We’re indoors, in our “built environment”. Enclosed air spaces, shared living areas. Our bio-auras of germs – the surrounding cloud of microbes we all carry around with us – all intermingling and mixing.

And if any of us happen to be infected with something – contaminating each other.

Which is what happens in a classroom full of kids. Thirty of them together, for up to six hours at a time. Breathing the same air, touching the same objects and each other – bio-auras fully exposed.

So two of them have rhinovirus – perfectly normal variations of the common cold – sneezing and coughing, but determined to stay in the loop. Yeah, well. Most of the other kids are healthy enough – a few days of discomfort if they come down with it. Nothing to worry about.

Except we’re not all equal are we? And we don’t all have the same health levels.

In any group of people you like, a large proportion invariably have some kind of underlying medical condition. Two or three in our classroom of kids – as high as 10% – asthma, TB and one of them with early cancer.

So how fair is it on them when rhinovirus hits – as it probably will, at six hours exposure per day, every day? And how sick will they be with the complications a common cold can bring?

Sure, let’s not destroy all germs everywhere willy-nilly because we’re paranoid about getting sick.

Protection where it counts

But doesn’t it make sense to treat selected areas where we’re more at risk?

With more people on top of each other at school than at home, school is a more likely place to pick up infection.

So is the office, or factory, or supermarket, or train, or bus – higher germ concentrations from a greater number of sources. More infections to choose from, higher odds of catching one.

But one disinfected school room – or even a whole school – does not destroy the eco-balance if it is treated to protect the weak. The greater world is too big – and goes on being just the same outside.

Besides, once our kids move back into their school room after treatment, their own bio-auras will re-populate the “germosphere” very quickly. A tummy bug like e. coli for instance, can double its bacteria every 20 minutes.

Yeah, the kids are still exposed – but not to the same level.

Mist up that schoolroom with sterilising hydrogen peroxide gas plasma from a Hypersteriliser and the germ threshold falls to zero – no viruses, no bacteria, totally sterile – in 40 minutes.

The kids start from totally safe – no lingering germs from yesterday, or the day before – not on surfaces, and not floating around in the air either – the room is totally NEUTRAL.

Germ zero

A lot safer than letting things ride – because some pathogenic nasties can survive outside a body for weeks or more. And wouldn’t it be luck of the draw if it was YOUR kid that came down with it?

Your own flesh and blood – in an isolation ward with with the first case of bubonic plague for 300 years – chance infection by an 8-year-old new kid – an immune carrier from Madagascar, where the disease still affects hundreds, every year.

Good germs, bad germs. Life and death.

Why take chances?

How your child can survive iffy kid hygiene

Dirty hands around boy
Kid hygiene – you really don’t want to know

Time to start winning the battle.

Though you may have to concede the “Go, clean your teeth” issue.

A minor setback. Serious Colgate moments will start happening from the first date.

Out of your hands

It’s what you can’t supervise that’s the worry. Out of sight and running free, the last thing on their minds is washing their hands or watching how they eat.

Like the stomach-wrenching bout of gastro after comidas rapidas from that street vendor in Spain?

No es su culpa – that was eating with dirty hands from not finding the loo after watching Darth Vader in Guerra de las Galaxias.

Kid hygiene. Out of sight and out of control.

Where they’re vulnerable

Especially at school.

350 like-minded young terrors all bigging it up, defying authority, avoiding soap and water – ‘cos it’s sissy.

All together under one roof. 30 to a class – all breathing the same air, touching the same things, sharing the same space.

Tough creatures, yes. Cast-iron immune systems from eating dirt as toddlers. But growing up fast – increasingly vulnerable to viruses and bacteria their systems have never confronted before. Or coming down with bugs they somehow got away with last time.

Iffy, all right. Not safe at all.

Because sure, the school gets cleaned every night. Tough regulations, class-rooms vacuumed out, basins and toilets wiped down with bleach, all rubbish taken away.

But what about the things kids touch?

Invisible risk

Pencils, crayons, paper, text books, computer keyboards, door handles, taps, loo flushes – and the favourite, underneath the desk where the used chewing gum gets stuck?

What about the classroom air-space – still lingering with somebody’s coronation chicken stashed away two days ago, and uncontrolled farts from baked beans in that day’s school lunch?

What about the things you can’t see too? Invisible viruses and bacteria – as many as 30 billion to a cubic foot – floating on the air and riding the draughts.

Waiting for the kids to come back tomorrow. Waiting for the two or three who will touch their faces once too often.

Rhinovirus – so tiny, a single cell can drop THROUGH a terra cotta roof tile. Or norovirus, the holiday favourite – highly contagious by the slightest skin contact.

The classrooms might get cleaned, but the germ threshold stays the same. A lurking threat unchecked by iffy kid hygiene. Luck of the draw who gets infected next.

Hospital-grade protection

Unless the school is using a Hypersteriliser.

In just twenty minutes, ionised hydrogen peroxide gas plasma reduces that germ threshold to zero. (Tweet this) Oxidising viruses and bacteria to shreds. Reducing the iffyness somewhere closer to safe. No germs, period.

Not compensating for unwashed hands after using the loo, of course. Or chewing pencils that have been on the floor. Or any other party tricks of kid hygiene.

Log 6 Sterility Assurance Level

But it is a safety net. A reassurance that your kid’s classroom is sterile to hospital operating room standards when everyone enters in the morning.

After that, it depends on how persuasive you are at encouraging life habits.

Nerve-wracking, yes. But WE got through it.

So will they – with much better odds in their favour.