Tag Archives: soap and water

If you could see germs, you’d be scared too

Doctor with microscope
More deadly than any terrorist threat – and they’re all around us

Doctors are scared.

They don’t show it because they’re too professional.

But they know and they’re scared. That deep-down gut-twisting fear that things are wrong.

It’s about antibiotics.

Antibiotics and germs.

Once upon a time antibiotics were thought to fix just about anything. Not viruses of course, they’re physically even more difficult. But certainly bacteria. Any risk of infection, bung in antibiotics – the miracle drugs that have made modern medicine the wonder that it is.

Alarm bells ringing

Trouble is, antibiotics are beginning not to work any more. The germs are winning.

Which means any kind of routine surgery – from gallstone removal to a simple bypass – is no longer as safe as it was. Infection is less easy to control. Complications are more likely to set in. Pretty well the only thing between success and disaster is the level of hygiene.

Exactly why doctors are hearing alarm bells.

Because there’s one massive difference between a surgical incision protected by antibiotics – and one not protected at all.

At all? Surely not.

Better believe it. Look at the lengths medics go to in isolating dread diseases. Hazmat clothing for all personnel. Isolation tent with built-in sleeves and gloves for patient care without touching. Like Ebola tents – we’ve all seen the pictures in the media. Just imagine if EVERY case was like this.

Because if antibiotics don’t work, they already are.

Staph infections, TB, c.difficile, gonorrhoea, e.coli – they’re all immune and have-a-go – often present but inactive in our own bodies. Waiting for just one opening, one simple little cut…

External germs are an even bigger headache. They’re everywhere, on every surface, swirling and teeming in the air.

See for yourself

Want a demonstration? Grab a handful of glitter and throw it in the air. Better still, throw it in front of a fan, because all microbes can float on the slightest breeze.

The stuff goes everywhere, right? On your clothes, in your hair, all over your face. And see how difficult it is to wash off. See how it keeps twisting and fluttering in the air – be a couple of hours before that’s finished settling.

But at least you can SEE glitter. Germs are smaller and you can’t see them at all. But they’re there alright – like there’s already 6 billion right inside your own mouth.

OK, maybe glitter is a bit radical – but at least it shows how difficult the problem is.

A better example is Glo Germ, a harmless liquid or powder of fake germs – invisible and no more than 5 microns across, exactly like real. Like germs, it spreads all over the place and can’t be seen.

Not in the air unfortunately, but certainly on surfaces like food preparation areas – a tell-tale to show when areas HAVE NOT been cleaned effectively.

Shine an ultraviolet light on the treated area and uncleaned parts immediately show up – like TV’s fancy CSI-goo for detecting blood stains.

Hey Fred, this thing’s filthy – watch your six, or you’re gonna get it!

Yeah, OK. So our antibiotics have packed up and there’s billions of germs around that we can’t see. Should we give up and cry?

Start with soap and water

Not unless you want to be dead – which is what germs do, given half a chance – make you dead. The bad ones that is – inside every one of us, there’s more than 100 trillion good bacteria of our own.

Which means the best thing is show bad germs where to get off. With soap and water for example – washing our hands at least before and after every meal – and very definitely going to the loo.

Of course doctors and nurses do this already, scrubbing up before every procedure. They know the odds – and nobody wants to lose a patient on THEIR watch.

They’re still scared.

Washing hands, sterilising instruments, swabbing everything down – none of it gets rid of microorganisms in the air. And gut-feel tells the Docs those germs are up there. ALL germs are airborne, it’s a physical impossibility that they’re not. At 5 microns across or less, that’s 100th the size of coffee fumes!

Only one thing for it. Some kind of spray to take out the airborne jobs. If they can fumigate a whole house for insects, then surely they can do the same thing for superbugs.

Hello, hydrogen peroxide

Very definitely yes. And nowhere near as toxic.

The spray is hydrogen peroxide, exactly the same as the body produces for its own germ-fighting – in a mild 6% solution – the same as you might use as for minor cuts and abrasions, or as a mouth wash.

Underpowered? Not a bit of it. Hydrogen peroxide kills germs by oxidising them – shoving oxygen atoms at them that tear apart their cell structure. There’s no germs coming back from that.

Plus, because it’s ionised as it’s sprayed, the hydrogen peroxide is cranked up to warp speed as it leaves its Hypersteriliser dispenser – a slick, handy unit about the size of a small wheelie-bin.

Remember your states of matter? Solid, liquid, gas, right?

Well ionising a gas, which is what vaporised hydrogen peroxide is, changes its state again. From a gas to a plasma – a kind of supergas in which all the molecules are charged.

And which releases a whole slew of other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.

Germs to oblivion

Yeah, World War Three in microcosm. But it still takes time to happen. The hydrogen peroxide has to disperse and fill the room space – a rapid action because the molecules all carry the same charge.

They are actively and desperately trying to get away from each other. Which forces the plasma through the air, equally in all directions – fetching hard up against all surfaces, including walls and ceilings – and pushing deep into every crack and crevice, exactly the places wipe-down disinfecting cannot reach.

Filling the air and making sure the stuff works takes around 40 minutes for the average room. After that, the place is sterile. No germs, no bacteria – just oxygen and water which evaporates before it touches anything.

OK, doctors are still scared. There’s still no replacement to do what antibiotics do.

But at least they’re not terrified.

Originally posted 2015-10-29 18:41:36.

Safe hands – are we soft-soaping ourselves?

Hand washing woman
Wipes are better – your antibacterial soap isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Maybe the penny’s beginning to drop.

That we need to keep our hands clean to avoid germs.

Which is kinda important because more and more antibiotics aren’t working against them any more.

Danger, health hazard

So dirty hands mean we’re going to get sick.

Whoops! What do you mean, dirty hands? They look alright don’t they?

Besides, washing your hands all the time is a mission. Most of us skimp on the job – or avoid it all together.

Disagreeable facts

Which kinda underlines a recent report that antibacterial soap isn’t any more effective than your actual El Cheapo from Tesco. Apparently the bio-active goodie in the soap, triclosan, doesn’t kill germs with the usual exposure time most people give it – it actually needs NINE hours.

That’s because ‘Elf & Safety or whoever only allow a very small amount to be in your soap – so its real germ-fighting ability doesn’t amount to a row of beans.

Not that our regular soap is likely to be any better. Most of us hardly ever use it. We shake our hands around for five seconds under the tap – and reckon that’s it. Spreading more germs as we shake our hands afterwards – while the air dryer blasts the rest all over the wash room.

Fact is, we don’t LIKE washing our hands – even though we know it’s necessary.

So yeah, we feel a twinge of conscience if we sit down in a restaurant for a slap-up meal – IF we even think of washing our hands at all.

Too much PT, don’t bother.

The soap and water alternative

Except that some of us have got clever and we’re using gel or wipes – handy for pocket or handbag, we never need to be caught out.

Oh sure, the Parent Police will have a go at us for using them. Shielding our kids from exposure to germs retards their immune systems. At least, that’s the received wisdom.

But let’s be practical. Are your hands going to get clean or not?

The bathroom’s down the hall anyway – away from the action. Far better to use a gel or wipe. They’re instant and now. And at least you take care of the germs.

OK, that’s the soap and water story nailed. So which is it, gel or wipe?

Both have antibacterial action – the real kind. So which should it be?

Horses for courses.

Though for our money, wipes work better.

Easy gel

Yes, with gel, it’s easy-peasy. You put the stuff on, work your hands around, shake ’em about a bit for the stuff to evaporate – job done.

Still prefer wipes. If there’s visible gunge on your hands, you’ve got something to physically wipe it off. As good as a face cloth or a sponge. And the antibacterial job gets done too. No viruses or bacteria, you’re safe and good to go.

Oh right, you still have to get rid of the wipe.

So what are we, helpless? Into the bin – or a bag you can keep it in until you find one. Or your pocket.

Disposable wipes

What do you mean, carrying germs around with you?

You’re not wrong, that’s why the bag. Don’t you keep one handy because the shops all charge for them these days?

We shouldn’t be squeamish either. Back in the day, we’d blow our nose on a hankie and carry that around with, full of gunk. A tissue would get dumped ASAP – and so will a moist-wipe.

Works for us. We HATE washing, so we carry wipes. So we never get caught out – clean hands ALWAYS before meals and after the loo.

End of the grudge habit

It’s not like some secret ritual either. Nobody looks too worried if you’re wiping your hands at table or outside in the passage. Probably even miffed that they didn’t think of it themselves.

Plus it pays off too. No, no, norovirus – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease – it just doesn’t happen.

And can you remember the time you last had a cold or flu?

Safe hands – yes, of course.

Originally posted 2015-09-18 13:13:17.

The holiday sob stories that should never happen

Travelsick woman
Feeling ill on holiday can be avoided, don’t let it happen

They’re the nightmares that should never happen to anyone.

No, not the missed flights or missing baggage. Not even the half-built hotel with the accommodation not ready.

Somehow those get resolved – there’s always a fudge fix – even though you have to scream the place down to get it.

Sickening for something

No, what really puts the mockers on your holiday is getting sick.

Feeling like grim death and being unable to do anything. Sick as a dog for your precious few days in the sun – then back home still feeling lousy.

Especially as it’s avoidable.

Yes, you read that right – it doesn’t have to happen.

It’s possible not to get sick AND MAKE SURE YOU DON’T.

Easy peasy too.

  1. Go to the bathroom.
  2. Run water into the basin.
  3. Say out loud “Holiday health horrors start with your hands”.
  4. Get the soap, give your hands a good going over.
  5. Rinse off and dry with paper towel.
  6. Do this before every meal – and of course, after every visit to the loo.

Kid’s stuff, right?

Yeah, but it works.

And just think how easy you forget to do it when you’re having fun. Dicing with disorder. You’re on a holiday roll, time is precious. Come on, let’s go, go, go!

Wash your hands and enjoy

A whole morning, a whole afternoon. The whole day can go by and you never stop. Grabbing a quick bite to eat when you can, noshing with your fingers. Burgers, fries, kebabs, pizza, whatever – don’t let nothing slow the fun down.

Uh huh.

And how clean are your hands when you do all this? Foreign place, lots of people – all touching and grabbing and using the same things you are.

Not remembering to wash THEIR hands either.

The sunbed mattress on the beach? Middle of summer, three months into the season – how many people have used it before you have? How many times does it get cleaned? A wipedown once a day? Once a week? At all?

Yeah, you got it. Lots of things never get cleaned at all. The handlebars on your quad-bike. The handrails on the bus to the beach. The statue everybody kisses for good luck.

Next thing, serious sob stories like whole families coming down with hospital illnesses – lasting phobias, allergies, digestive systems on the fritz for the rest of their lives.

For why?

Because like every single one of us, out-and-about you never thinks of washing hands from one second to the next. So how’s about the fact that we each touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times A DAY?

OK, so maybe the hotel ARE lax about serving food – keeping it safe from flies, keeping it properly hot or chilled, leaving it out in the open for hours.

What are you, crazy?

Are you going to eat food that’s visibly off like that? Put up with the obvious sloppiness of it? Ignore the dangers?

First off, if you DO eat food like that – you’re not blind – it’s your sob story, you live with it.

Complain, complain

Second, you owe it to yourself – and the hotel – to complain. In fact it’s your duty. The great United States were even founded on it.

You ever watched how these people run making holiday experiences happen for people like you?

Every day, another four or five plane-loads – check-in, organise, service. All of them on seven-day turnaround – from Stockholm, Hamburg, Vilnius, Dublin, everywhere.

Which means nose to the grindstone, 24/7 – no peace for the wicked, and what do you mean sleep? So is it any wonder something falls through the slats occasionally and stuff doesn’t get done?

Because the rookie manager is handling it and having a bit of a meltdown, or the caterers didn’t deliver, or the computers were down at the central laundry, or any one of a million things – you know the score. Sob stories never start deliberate.

But if you don’t complain, nothing will get done about it. Other things will get done instead and your issue will get forgotten.

Other people will get food poisoning, other people will go to hospital – all because of you, because you didn’t complain when you should. The silent sob story.

Nobody wants a Moaning Minnie of course, bitch like a fish-wife and you’ll most likely get ignored.

Constructive criticism

But what are you really doing?

Alerting the management to a problem, that’s what. So they can do something about it. So they can make it better. Nobody wants to run a sloppy business, that’s the way to bankruptcy and failure.

Which means sounding off when something’s wrong is actually doing the place a favour.

You don’t want the iffy experience, they don’t want the dodgy rep that goes with it – everybody wins when you open your mouth.

Which comes back to why you get ill.

You’re not going to eat food if it’s off, are you? So complain. Or walk out. Or both.

You owe it

You owe it to your own body. You owe it to the golden seven days you spent all those thousands of pounds for. You owe it to other people so they don’t get ill either.

You owe it to your hosts too – hotel, restaurant or whatever. They suffer too if the go out of business. And you can’t wash your hands of that responsibility either.

If you had a successful holiday, great. If you had a rough time, get well soon.

Next time, remember soap and water – and whatever you do, don’t shut up.

Originally posted 2015-09-02 15:27:39.

Now arriving – your next nasty illness is in seat 19F

Sleeping woman on plane
Happy holidays – just make sure you don’t bring back any unwanted souvenirs

Makes you cross, doesn’t it?

Or worried.

You’re at your local supermarket, not even on a flight – yet somehow the latest bug has found its way to you.

Bugs are always everywhere

MERS, maybe. Or this year’s flu strain. Norovirus, perhaps. Typhoid, cholerea. Or gasp, Ebola. The latest illness.

Hard to tell in the early stages – they all feel the same. When impending victims don’t even know they’ve got it. But it’s there, incubating.

That woman with the tan, coming back from Las Palmas, for example. The one in 19F.

She looks and probably feels completely normal.

Because she is.

100% OK – full of holiday sparkle – feeling like a million dollars.

Yet in two days the sweats will start. The headache, the feeling tired and feverish, the sore throat, the loss of appetite.

Mistaken identity or emergency?

Aeroplane flu or something more serious? You can never be too careful.

It’ll take maybe another three days to know.

And in that time, how many people will she come in contact with?

How many objects will she touch? (Fomites)

Because if she’s highly contagious, you’ll pick it up in days, without coming anywhere near her.

Easy-peasy, like this. Her suitcase was handled eight times by the time it hit the carousel at Gatwick.

And there it was, lurking on the handle. A special import for you – and she never even knew. This year’s illness – yours for free.

Like, whenever did she clean her suitcase handle? Whenever does anyone?

A hole in your hygiene

And her Mum takes her straight out to Nando’s – a surprise welcome home party with all her girl friends. Big lovies, big celebration, champagne, everything.

And nobody ever even thought to wash their hands.

Which is how you got it.

From one of the girls. Hi, welcome home, hug-hug, mwuh!

Spread by contact.

One week later and it’s on you – direct from the handle of the supermarket trolley.

Well, think carefully now – do you wash your hands when you get home from shopping?

Or when you pack all the stuff away?

Come to that, if the evening meal is a rush, do you wash your hands before leaping into cooking?

All too easy isn’t it?

Self protection

And all too easy to fix.

Just a little soap and water.

Or, if it’s in the air, a good dose with a Hypersteriliser to keep everyone safe at the office.

Oh yes, one other thing.

If you do feel ill, please stay home.

You’ll feel better – and nobody else will get it.

Originally posted 2015-08-26 18:41:24.

Burger with cramps – free with unwashed hands

Burger girl
Dirty hands – ooh! Are you going to suffer!

You’ll know in about four hours.

Whether you got away without washing your hands or not.

Not that you really think about it when you’re having fun. You’re on a roll – grab a burger and go, go, go! Why not, it’s summer. Party time!

Until your four hours are up.

Paying the price

That’s how long the collywobbles usually take.

Cramps, nausea – the price you pay for forgetting soap and water.

Not nice, but it could be worse.

Like full-on norovirus – the super-puke nasty. All happy-happy for up to three days before it kicks in.

Then the cramps.

And the nausea, so bad you think you might die. And the vomiting, so bad you’re terrified that you won’t.

Oh yes, and the diarrhoea – all of your insides suddenly outside and burning like hell – over and over again. Up to four days of it if you’re unlucky.

Serious dehydration and up to a million hospital cases every year in the UK. And the lurking reality that 80 people a year actually die from it.

One hell of a price to pay for a burger.

Down and dirty

Because that’s where it starts. Right there at your fingertips. Or more accurately, ON your fingertips.

You see, we reckon we’re so safe and invincible most of the time, hand hygiene never even occurs to us. This is good old Britain, it can’t happen to us. It’s not like we’re in darkest Africa – underdeveloped, underfunded and forgotten, with disease round every corner.

So it’s highly likely we can go through a WHOLE DAY without washing our hands even once. Touching handles, keypads, phones – and then our faces, where germs are most likely to get in.

Not everything we touch is clean either – so there’s dirt and crud and other stuff, even poo.

Yucky us

Don’t believe it? A totally staggering number of us NEVER wash our hands after going to the loo.

And how about those nappy changes on the back seat of the car, which only gets cleaned maybe once a month? Do you always use wet wipes? Do you even carry a gel?

Fact is, 95% of us don’t wash our hands properly even when we do. A five-second rinse under the tap does nothing – or makes it even worse if you dry your hands on your clothes. Germs thrive on dirty wet.

Five minutes of easy effort to avoid the death of us – and still we don’t do it. That’s why we call it the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Because nine times out of ten, all those food poisoning stories you hear are self-inflicted.

Dodgy dinner ingredients or scruffy staff?

You might want to rethink that. Because even the poshest of us never thinks to wash our hands before sitting down to splurge in a five-star restaurant.

And the germs on the door handle of a Mercedes ML 450 are just as potent as those on the strap-handles of the Bakerloo Line.

Far and wide

Worse, because of the incubation period, it spreads to everyone we have contact with and we’re none of us any the wiser. Everyone we meet, touch, hug, shake hands with, kiss.

And norovirus is possibly the most contagious of all time. More than the common cold. So transfer is inevitable. Everyone can get it and does – the ultimate cruise ship souvenir.

Plus, you’ve got to remember it’s a virus. A half-alive organism that can last active and awake for days and weeks without sustenance. Or survive dormant for years if necessary, waiting for your live body cells to give it power and energy.

So it’s not the burger that gives you cramps.

It’s unwashed hands. Forgetfulness. Unintended negligence that could cost you your life.

Five minutes with soap and water, that’s all.

A good burger from McDonalds is less than a quid, surely you’re worth more than that?

Originally posted 2015-08-12 14:14:46.

Not washing hands is like not wearing a seat belt

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.

Originally posted 2015-07-23 15:25:14.

Wash your hands and you get to live another day

Hip hop dancer
Clean hands! No germs!
Another day to celebrate!

Splish, splash, done. Now to have some fun.

Because germs are a real downer.

Feeling good one minute, feeling grim the next.

And you could even wind up dead.

Down the plughole

All because – just once – you missed out on the soap and water.

Nah! It’s never going to happen to you, is it?

You’re pretty clean most of the time anyway.

Check your hands, not a mark on them. Like you wouldn’t eat with dirt on them, would you? And not straight from the loo and down the hatch either.

Ew!

Not healthy. Not sexy.

But we all forget to do it all the time. You’re in a rush, you’re having a good time. And maybe, maybe, you just missed out washing yourself once or twice.

You only live once

Except it only takes once for germs to get a hold. Through your mouth. From wiping your eye. They’re not fussy.

And being dead is not sexy either. Neither is rolling in agony with guts ache. Or your head pounding. Or both. Sometimes so bad that you worry you might NOT die.

Or you might be paralysed, deformed, stuck in a wheelchair, or out of your mind.

A hell of a chance to take, isn’t it?

Yet with 100 trillion bacteria already living INSIDE your body – and trillions and trillions more always all around – those are the odds you’re up against.

An easy choice though, hey?

A proper go with soap and water gets rid of 99.9% of them. Drying off properly even more, because germs thrive on wet surfaces.

As quick as it takes to sing to yourself: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, may you always live in sunshine, Happy Birthday to you.

Happy Birthday?

All for you

Sure, with no germs on you – no viruses or bacteria – you get to celebrate being alive again.

Another day.

Another one out of 22,000 – which is all most of us get.

Just by washing your hands.

So easy peasy, a child could do it.

Which kind of says – if it isn’t a lifetime habit already, it should be.

So you can enjoy the good times.

Because being sick isn’t fun. Out of it and lying in bed, sometimes for months – depending on what you’ve got. Not like an accident you have no control over. Stuck there because a germ was ALLOWED to find its way into you.

No way, José

Preventable, avoidable, unnecessary.

Just by washing your hands.

Do it now, while you think about it. Always after the loo and before you eat.

Yes, you’ve made it to another day.

Now enjoy it!

Originally posted 2015-07-07 12:31:38.

Wash your hands, yes – but dry them safely?

Girl with soapy hands
And for your next trick – how to get them dry safely

You’ve done the whole thing – soap and running water for two minutes, the backs of your hand too, and in between the fingers.

Phase One complete – exactly the way we’re inspired to by those hygiene experts at Northampton General Hospital.

So now your hands are dripping.

Clean, yes – but with residual germs contained in the water drops.

Which means Phase Two – removing the moisture AND the residual germs.

Where’s the drying doohickey?

If you’re at home, there’s probably a towel within easy reach – a fresh one, because you’re that kind of person.

That’s OK, as long as you only use the thing once. Wiping your hands gets rid of the moisture – and has a certain scraping action that gets a lot of the germs off.

But now they’re on the towel which is already moist and at room temperature. Perfect for germ reproduction, which they will certainly do, doubling in number every twenty minutes or so. Chuck it in the laundry and they’ll get sorted.

But put the towel back on the rail to be used again and you’re setting yourself up for re-contamination. You wash your hands again and a whole load of new germs arrive just when you think you’ve got them clean.

Uh, huh. You’ve gone backwards.

Re-germing

Better if you’re in a hotel of course. Fresh linen every day, so it’s use once and chuck. But have two showers, one in the evening and one next morning, both with the same towel and… you guessed it – you’ve re-germed yourself again.

How about elsewhere? Public places, shared washrooms, lines of loos and hand basins and – gasp – other people.

Keep your eyes open, what you’ll see will shock you. Like around half of everybody busily pushing through don’t even bother to wash their hands. Weirdly, some of them will even look like they’re going through the motions – actually standing at the basin – but not physically doing anything.

Why is this, people all in a rush? The place might be done up nice, but it’s hardly where you’ll want to linger. No plugs in the basins for a start – though that’s a good way of compelling you to use running water.

I don’t wanna queue

There certainly IS an issue with hand drying. If the place gets anywhere busy, like Saturday morning at a shopping mall, there’s ALWAYS a queue for the towel dispenser or air dryer.

Right there could be one reason people don’t wash – they see the queue and stump out of there in a late model huff. Another sub-group avoid the queue by wiping their hands on their clothes. Let’s hope neither of them are going to sit down and have a meal with their hands like that.

Could also be the drying method puts them off. Plus the six to ten steps across the floor to the drying thing with your hands dripping, before you can even start.

The yuck method

It’s dying a death now, but the old cloth roller towel dispenser is still around. You know the one – where you grab both edges of a section previously used by someone else to give yourself a fresh piece, pull down hard and then wipe.

Yes, it gets your hands dry – but there’s a good chance you’ve got somebody else’s germs in using it. And the somebody after you gets yours.

How about a paper towel dispenser?

Fiendishly difficult contraptions to operate when your hands are wet – jamming, bunching up, or refusing to dispense all together. You get your hands dry alright, but usually with a wodge the size of a football before you’ve finished – and requiring a dexterity level at least on par with those amazing technical ladies who solder miniature circuit boards.

Despite all this, paper towels are undoubtedly the safest. Use once and throw away – brilliant in principle.

The turbo-blaster

But technology’s not finished with you yet, because there’s also the air dryer. Either a weak buzzing machine that does nothing, or a force-feed jet blast from a supersonic wind tunnel. Yes, you’ll get you hands dry if you wait long enough – though it will auto shut-off at least five times before you do.

Uh, huh. Check the floor underneath. A lot of people like you dripped for several minutes before the drying became effective. And have you noticed how humid it always seems to get in there?

A lot of water drops are being blasted off into smaller germ-laden droplets and spreading throughout the room. You walk in to go for a sprinkle – and walk out with a dose of flu.

King of the dryers right now is undoubtedly the triple whammy air blade dryer. Pioneered by the Dyson people, who are all totally brilliant. But again, not designed for someone with dripping hands.

Check the floor of the compartment underneath where you put your hands in though – there’s usually a pool of water. Look at the walls alongside and you’ll see damp squidges radiating out – airborne germ clouds, just like the other jobs.

So what to do?

Hygiene magic

Lucky for all of us, there’s a guy called Joe Smith who has it all worked out. Shake your hands after washing, then dry them with a single sheet of folded paper. Check out his video on TED – if nothing else, his charisma will have you remembering how to get your hands dry safely for ever.

Joe’s mantra is SHAKE your hands to get rid of the drops – then FOLD the paper to give you enough absorbency to remove the moisture. Try it, it works – big time.

But there’s still the problem of acquiring your piece of paper in the first place. Joe has them all primed and ready. But you will have to battle with some kind of dispenser – and with wet hands as we’ve seen before, you really need to be Fukimoto-san, high-tech solder expert.

There is however, a way out. To reverse Joe’s mantra and do it backwards: first FOLD, then SHAKE.

Fold, as in have the single sheets pre-folded in a dispenser you can extricate them from with wet hands. NONE of the existing ones on the market allow you to do this with any ease.

Pre-folding

OK, so have a cup of coffee while you think about it – at Costa’s, where they seem to know a thing or two. Including – though they don’t know it – how to get your hands dry.

Because the paper napkin you take to your table is already pre-folded into four – and easily accessible, packed loose in an open-topped container along with the spoons, sugar, straws and stir-sticks for you to help yourself.

Picking up one of those without lifting a whole fistful is a breeze. So if your washroom had a box of those on the vanity slab beside each basin, it would be a doddle.

No more trudging to the dispenser or dryer, dripping on the floor. The FOLD is already done. You SHAKE your hands, keeping them in the basin so all the drops stay in the right place. Then you pick up a sheet and dry your hands. Clean, dry and safe, because all the germs go in the bin.

Back to Earth

So why all the rigmarole with expensive machines that don’t really work?

Search us.

Though the legend is not lost on us that when the Americans sent the astronauts into space, they spent millions developing a pen that would write in a vacuum, upside down if necessary, and on all surfaces.

The Russians gave their cosmonauts pencils.

Paper, scissors, rock – paper wins.

Originally posted 2015-06-11 17:51:00.

Feeling ick? Ever twigged it could be your fault?

Sick woman with medicine
Wrong again. Medicine is for afters – it’s washing hands before

Nice restaurant, was it?

Never been there before. Never had clam, chorizo & white bean stew before either.

Dangerous living, on-the-edge exotic. No wonder you’re feeling queasy. Ick de luxe – not nice.

Price of carelessness

Except, may we ask you a personal question?

OK, it was a whole evening out. You took the tube to town, had a few drinks at that stunning wine bar (they serve nuts, but it couldn’t have been them). Then a short bus ride and romantic stroll to this new Spanish place. You had a booking, they sat you down, you ordered and stuff arrived.

Perfect.

So when did you wash your hands?

Touchy, feely world

Hey, it’s a big city – 8 million people. Lots of them ride the tube too. Hell in the rush hour – strap-hanging, clutching the grab rails. Same on the buses. And every door handle in this magnificent burg – touching, grabbing all kinds of other things as well, just like you.

And most of them never washed their hands either. Out and about, doing stuff – never occurs to anyone, right? Oh, and yes – most people never wash their hands properly either, like 95% of us.

Plenty germs with 8 million people – and it only takes one.  More than half of us never wash our hands after going to the loo either.

Just a few cells should do it – maybe 20 or so. Microscopically smaller than the point of a pin. So tiny they could even fall THROUGH an unglazed plate. But that small, they’re so light that gravity has no effect, so they’re probably swirling round in the air.

No, we’re not going to suggest that you breathe them in, though you could.

They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere

Much more likely they’ll catch on your clothing or your skin – particularly your hands, because they’re always exposed and doing things. Touching doors, handbags, mobile, money, grab rails, menus, knife and fork – even food itself, ‘scuse fingers.

And your face more than anything else – which we all touch unconsciously 3,000 times a day. Especially the soft, moist tissue round the eyes, nose and mouth – the germs’ favourite way in to cause infection.

Heck, we even jam stuff in our mouths while we’re searching for something in our pockets. Keys, credit cards, plane tickets.

Unthinking, yeah? Never even remembering to ask “do you know where it’s been?”

So now it’s hours later and the cramps have started. Seriously ick. You’ve been to the loo twice and it’s all liquid. You’re shivering and your head is starting to pound. Something you ate, for sure – or so your head tells you.

Clams and chorizo, what were you thinking?

Not the chef’s fault

Except that wasn’t some greasy spoon, hole-in-the-wall place, it was a decent restaurant. Good professionals making an honest buck – not much chance the food was off. Nobody else came down with anything either, and the place was spotless.

Sure there are places with mice and cockroaches, but this wasn’t one of them – you’d know before you stepped in the door, that kind of carelessness gives itself away. And you’re fussy enough to walk out if it doesn’t feel right, so you stayed and enjoyed yourself. You know about being ick.

But unless you’re allergic to clams, your suspicions could be a little off. The likeliest cause is something transferred from your own hands – directly to the food, or from your face.

Out of sight, out of mind

Be honest, when was there a soap and water opportunity before you ate? Unless we deliberately make one, it’s not even on the radar for most of us, so don’t feel you’re the exception. It was a special moment. You took the chances we all take every single day – and this time you were unlucky.

So yes, it’s probably norovirus. But no, not from the food. From your own not-quite-so-fair hands and your own forgetfulness. Which is how most of us get ick.

Sure, not everything you touch can harm you. But just about everything DOES transfer to you. It’s on your palms and all over your fingers – too small to see and too impossible to tell whether it’s harmless or dangerous.

Which is why the hand washing thing is so vital. You can’t take a chance on good or bad, so you wash your hands to avoid the risk.

Spanish treats

Sorry you’re ick. But you enjoyed the food at the time, didn’t you? And Spanish people go crazy for fresh seafood, so you can imagine the care they take to get it right.

Let’s hope you remember next time, to avoid misadventure. If you like clams, you’ll freak for nécoras – those velvety crab done with white wine, sofrito and olive oil. Or the pulpo with olive oil, paprika and salt…

Mmm, what are you doing next weekend?

Originally posted 2015-06-10 12:49:05.

Hand wash ritual to save us all from vomiting bug

Girl showing hands
Super clean, before every meal – super healthy, every day

Know that expression, “if you can’t beat them, join them”?

Applied to the awkward fact that 95% of us don’t wash our hands properly after going to the loo, we don’t like the way it’s looking at us.

Especially when that kind of carelessness brings so many of us down with the vomiting bug, norovirus – aka Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

So our suggestion is to turn it around – “if you can’t join them, beat them.”

Reverse psychology

Because frankly, there’s no way we’re going to risk our health out of aversion to a little soap and water. Not if it means stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea – where’s the sense in that?

And it makes least sense of all when we go out for a meal.

A special moment, special food, special friends – suddenly cut short by the awful vomiting bug.

Except it’s our fault, isn’t it?

Grubby paws

When was the last time we washed our hands before we sat down? And all that yuck on them from the loo two hours ago? Small wonder that our tummies go heave-ho as the first mouthfuls go down.

Nicely contaminated by our grubby fingers – they don’t look it, but they are – covered in norovirus or salmonella, too small to see so we kid ourselves that they’re clean anyway.

Next stop, A&E to have our stomachs pumped out.

Or not.

Blame the restaurant

Because no restaurant wants a bad rep for food poisoning when the real cause is so often customers with dirty hands.

So if you can’t join them, beat them, make a ritual out of it – a special hand washing ceremony before anybody eats.

Far-fetched?

Not a bit of it. In some restaurants, it’s already the practice to provide finger bowls – a ritual by themselves. So the idea of washing your hands at table is not so foreign.

And though it’s unusual, they’re not so crazy in popular restaurants either – nobody minds the focus on hygiene, it’s just unexpected.

Which leaves plenty of scope to take it a lot further – if nothing else, people will like it for the novelty.

And though it’s really a serious thing, you can even make it fun. (Thanks again, Northampton General Hospital!)

Halfway there already

On some airlines already, a sealed courtesy-wipe is provided to do hands and face with a meal. Biz-class and above do the same with hot towels.

And in the more exotic Turkish restaurants, part of the whole character is a huge copper basin with hot water brought to the table – and a copper jug to pour water over guests’ hands in a welcoming ritual.

Add scented soap and complimentary towels, and you have a whole hygiene procedure. A restaurant with unique, memorable character too.

Seems other countries have a better take on hygiene than we do. Go to Malaysia, and you’ve got to try “street food” – real, intricate, restaurant quality meals served out in the open, at the roadside.

Scrumptious yes, with your crockery and cutlery brought straight to your table in a basin of boiling water. Haul out your handy tube of gel that you carry always, and your hands are just as safe and sterilised.

A new ritual

Which is why we’re suggesting that a ritual is the thing. We’re already halfway there with the ritual of the phone. Look around you next time you’re out. Everyone on other tables always starts with Facebook or Twitter or something.

OK, so do the same with the gel. Haul it out, pass it round. Make it a feature of being out together. Everyone will know it’s good and hygienic, so there won’t be many refusals.

And if anybody asks why, simply say that nobody’s going to catch Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease if you can help it – not on your watch.

Which is why you do it at home too. These days, folks tend to sit round the TV more than the dinner table. But it’s the easiest thing in the world to pass the gel around.

Habit forming

Before you know it, a quick squidge before eating becomes everyone’s habit – and Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease becomes a rarity more than the norm.

Easy-peasy, huh?

Didn’t know staying healthy could be so simple?

Sure beats being ill when you don’t have to be.

Originally posted 2015-05-20 13:56:09.