Tag Archives: wash your hands

The antibiotic price-tag – wash your hands, or land up in hospital

Rush to AandE
Better believe it, unwashed hands can kill you

Old wives’ tale. Rubbish. A little dirt never hurt anyone.

Your parents probably think that. And certainly their parents did.

Life was different back then. No mobiles. Only two stations on the telly. Central heating only for the rich. No 4x4s to take you to school.

Not like the old days

Yeah – and your parents’ parents’ parents had no hot water, no bathroom, only an outside loo. You did your business on the long drop in the freezing cold.

Washing your hands was a mission back then. Put the kettle on, fill the basin – just to wash your hands? Wipe them off with a damp cloth, stop wasting gas. Nobody ever got ill from it.

Yeah, right. They just died a lot earlier.

But you’ve got to admit, they were pretty hardy.

Their metabolisms were different is why. But not like they were Martians or we are aliens. Their bodies were exposed to wider environments – more outdoors, hands on, getting down and dirty. They grew up with it, their bacteria growing accustomed to it, it was the norm.

Are we aliens?

Wait a minute. Their BACTERIA?

Sure, sure. In those days they never knew it, but all human bodies are full of bacteria, whole colonies growing on our skin, in our mouths – and most especially, in our gut. More than 100 trillion of them, outnumbering our own human cells 10 to 1. A human microbiota that is more microbial than human – perhaps we ARE aliens after all.

OK, so these bacteria don’t just sit there. The body outsources all kinds of functions to them – digesting food and breaking out its nutrients, powering our immune systems, providing the muscle for tissue repair.

Yeah, there’s bad guys in there too – harmful pathogens that could bring us down. Small in numbers though, and smart enough to keep quiet. One false move and the good guys will either fight them or eat them.

Note that word smart.

Adapt and survive

Exactly what bacteria are. Because these remarkable creations are able to adapt and change to new conditions faster than anything else on the planet. Twenty minutes can breed a whole new generation – with new strengths, new skills, generating advanced enzymes to meet the new challenges.

Dirt in the system? They grew up with it, recognised it, know how to deal with it. Food not properly washed or cooked? No problem – they came from a long line of heroes with cast-iron stomachs.

Yeah, they knew upsets, what gut problems were really like. Where do you think names like Montezuma’s Revenge, traveller’s dysentery, Delhi belly, or back door sprint came from? They just manned up and ignored it, the stuff of Empire-building. “No guts, no glory” was how they lived.

Our own stomachs are more sensitive – not just from different lifestyles, the food we eat is no longer the same. Take norovirus – until 1968, it didn’t exist. Named after an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis at a school in Norwalk, Ohio,  it’s now every cruise ship operator’s nightmare.

The double-edged sword

Didn’t they eat the same food back then, same as 100 years earlier? Wasn’t beef, beef – and pork, pork? We’re not SO different.

Yeah, but what about antibiotics? Our food is NOT the same.

In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, but it took till 1942 to develop it, the first patient being treated for streptococcal septicaemia. By 1950, antibiotics were motoring big time – not in medicine, but in agriculture. To bulk up animals for market – beef, lamb, pork, chicken – all the popular meat types.

Today, half the antibiotics in use world-wide are in food production – 63,151 tons in 2010, to rise by 67% in 2030.

Half a century of industrial-scale usage means that traces of antibiotics are now in all of us – directly from the food we eat, and from the recycled waste. Even vegetarians will find them in their systems.

Use and abuse

It gets worse. Because antibiotics have been overused in medicine too. The miracle cure-all, patients clamour for it for everything from minor ailments up. By the time they’re 20, the average teenager might have been prescribed with antibiotics at least 10 times.

And have you any idea what antibiotics do to the human system?

Sure, they clobber harmful bugs – if they haven’t already become resistant (we’re coming to that).

And how do they do this?

By killing bacteria.

Er… But that means us, doesn’t it? Aren’t we 90% bacteria?

Boomitsdabomb!

Yes we are. So you can imagine the effect of antibiotics in the gut with over 100 trillion bacteria all round – like a thermo-nuclear bomb.

OK, so they take out the bad guys – clobber them to nothing. But a lot of innocent bacteria get hit too. Dead or impaired, no longer able to fulfil their vital roles. Collateral damage.

Want proof?

Ever been on antibiotics and you’ve had side effects?

Stomach cramps? Vomiting? Diarrhoea? Hello, clostridium difficile.

And that’s just for starters.

Oh sure, the immediate side effects are not too bad – the medics’ perspective of course, probably not yours.

But every treatment tears into your bacteria community a little more. The bounce-back is a little less each time. A little less, a little less – you and your children and your children’s children. Fifty years of antibiotic onslaught and our microbiota are not anywhere near the same.

All change

The balance has shifted – all of a sardine we face uphill we’ve never faced before, even a generation ago. Our bacteria is different, different breeds with different behaviour, our immune systems are different, our bodies are different.

Some blame it on diet, on lifestyle, on health and fitness levels – but messing with our bacterial balance is probably more the root cause than any other.

Where does our body balance start? As we’re starting to discover, in our gut. And we’re more sensitive than we were. After fifty years of bombardment, absolutely on a hair trigger.

Why suddenly obesity – a major chunk of the population overweight? Where from Type 2 diabetes, like it’s becoming an epidemic? We’ve messed around with our bacteria – and now we’re paying the price.

But bacteria adapt remember? They change to meet all challenges. Which is why they’re becoming resistant, mutating to cope with this continual onslaught.

Clostridium difficile? Staphylococcus aureus? They’re both impervious to antibiotics without getting clever – and you can bet they’ll find a way to get round being clever too, before too long.

Back to basics – soap and water

All of which comes back to washing your hands, believe it or not.

We’re not the same as we were – our systems are different, our defences are different and our resilience is different. We can’t take chances with random bacteria like our grandparents used to – see how quickly norovirus or something strikes as soon as our hygiene gets forgetful.

And what? If you get sick, you want to take antibiotics for it?

Whoops.

Already the docs are aware so many antibiotics don’t work. And the underlying damage has been done too. So if you do get ill, there ain’t no medicine for it, you’ve just got to take your chances.

Which means don’t get ill in the first place. None of us can afford to.

But there’s still one thing we can do – and it works.

Wash your hands.

Originally posted 2015-10-22 13:57:40.

Germs, germs, all over the place – why aren’t we ill?

Not feeling well
You can’t escape germs –
but you can get rid of them

Woh, scary headlines.

Enough to make you ill by themselves.

AVERAGE WORKER COMES INTO CONTACT WITH MORE THAN 10 MILLION DISEASE-CAUSING BACTERIA

SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS HARBOUR MORE GERMS THAN TOILET SEATS 

AVERAGE PERSON CARRIES OVER 10 MILLION BACTERIA ON THEIR HANDS

Seems wherever we turn, we’re swamped by germs.

On everything we touch. On everything we eat. Even inside us – like the 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut.

OK, so because there’s germs everywhere, we’re told to wash our hands. Doing it properly with plain soap and water, rinsed and towelled off gets rid of 99.9% of germs – good.

Except then we go and touch something – the infested screen on our smartphone or whatever – and the germs come back again. Why do we bother? And why aren’t they carting us off in an ambulance, right now?

Miracle immune system

Basically, because our bodies are the amazing thing they are.

What’s the bet, until the media started with all the Wash Your Hands hoo-hah, you never thought about it much, did you? You didn’t have a problem, life was pretty normal – and the idea that your desk might have more germs than a sewer never occurred to you.

Which is why, like so many of the rest of us, washing your hands keeps slipping off the radar. Your hands LOOK clean, you don’t get sick – where’s the fire?

Uh huh. But you ARE playing with matches.

The only thing between the everyday you and being rushed to A&E is your truly miraculous immune system.

Yes, the germs on your desk DO get on your hands. They ARE transferred to your mouth (the average person touches their face 3 to 5 times every minute).  And they DO wind up in your gut.

So where’s the norovirus? The e.coli? The staphylococcus aureus? The campylobacter? Or something really deadly, like multiple sclerosis, AIDS, or cancer?

Protective bacteria

Well, among the many astounding things that they do, this where the 100 trillion bacteria in your gut come in. Aside from digesting food types we can’t do on our own, feeding our brain, and protecting us from food poisoning – they boost our immune function by outcompeting harmful pathogens.

Which comes back to the washing your hands thing.

Yes, you do swallow some bugs when you eat, that’s inevitable. But not as many as you might if you didn’t wash your hands.

So when it comes to outcompeting the bad guys down in your stomach, the odds are better than they were.

That yummy burger was zero germs when it left the grill – too hot for any to survive. Picked up a mess of e.coli though – from the print button on the photocopier. Down the hatch without you knowing – potential tummy explosion, right there.

Except your own gut bacteria ganged up against it. Gave it the treatment – like a jewel thief in some long-ago legendary bazaar. Problem sorted – and you never felt a thing.

Always under threat

Thing is though, the body is always at risk. And always on alert for surprise attacks.

Most of the time you’re OK because your immune system knows your environment. The expected germs are compensated for and everything stays normal.

Normal, that is, for you.

Except you’re not always alone, are you? There’s other people at work, at school, in the shops – or sitting at the restaurant table beside you. And what’s normal for you is not necessarily normal for them.

They might give you a bug, you might give them one. An out-of-the-ordinary pathogen your gut bacteria is not ready for. Behaves different, too big, too small, too armour-plated against the usual enzymes they produce.

Plus, chances are likely you have an underlying condition of some kind. Most of us do. Some weakness your body hasn’t been concerned with until now. An infection as a child that left one of your kidneys weak. Slight asthma from the damp conditions in your workplace. An allergy to nuts or eggs that triggers anaphylactic shock.

And now there IS a problem. Your gut is in imbalance. You should’ve washed your hands, but who does going out to a restaurant? And you got unlucky, using the salad servers at the buffet. An unusual germ for you, transferred from your fingers to the breadstick.

Again, it shouldn’t be a problem – not if your immune system is fully up and working – if your gut bacteria are fully prepared for everything that’s coming.

Antibiotic problems

Trouble is, there’s a hiccup – and it’s caused by antibiotics.

Nothing to do with you mind, you know zip about it. But, like a lot of us, you enjoy a high proportion of meat and dairy in your diet. And out in cattle farms, antibiotics are used on an industrial scale – not to make animals healthy, but to fatten them up faster.

You like milk shakes, so your own gut bacteria have been hit by antibiotics. Built up over time from your tea, coffee, breakfast cereal – and steady progression from vanilla, to chocolate, to banana, to caramel flavours.

Result? Well, you might not have a fungal infection yet – a common antibiotic side effect – but you are out of balance and your system is down. Shoulda, woulda, coulda washed your hands, shouldn’t you? Your only protection, this time round.

It CAN be easier, though not everywhere is doing it yet.

But count on it, as winter crowds us more together – and as more and more antibiotics are given out for colds, flu and all kinds of things that we strongarm our doctors for but shouldn’t – non-medical germ control is going to be on the up.

Press-button germ rescue

Right now, in your workplace, your kid’s school, public places – even trains, planes and buses – it’s possible to mist up everywhere with super-fine hydrogen peroxide spray, and oxidise ALL germs to oblivion. And that means everywhere, in the air, on surfaces – even into cracks and crevices where ordinary scrub cleaning never reaches.

The machine that does it is a Hypersteriliser – looks like a kind of electronic wheelie-bin – and all it takes is around forty minutes, depending on room size. All germs gone, completely. Kind of reassuring when you read those headlines back again.

Your desk infested with nasties and all that stuff. Overnight, gone. Totally sterile, for you and your colleagues too.

What germs, where?

Originally posted 2015-10-21 15:12:48.

Hand-held BLT disaster – Botulism, Listeria and Travellers diarrhoea

BLT in hands
It’s on your fingers, not in the filling

Scary this.

And slightly more than you might want to chew.

One of the world’s most popular sandwiches – loaded with tummy bugs.

Lunch time bad boy

Enough to take you down for a week or more – with hospital too, if dehydration sets in.

Actually, it’s not the sandwich. It’s probably you.

Because how are you eating it? With your hands, right?

Well of course, it’s a sandwich isn’t it?

Yeah, and in defence of all those thousands of sandwich-making companies (our local is the best in the universe) any bug you get is unlikely to come from them.

There’s too much to lose – happy customers, trading licences, health inspection. Have you any idea how tight the regulations are to protect you?

But you’re eating with your fingers, yes?

Straight in off the street.

Don’t touch it, you don’t know where it’s been

Not wrong, but ask yourself – when was the last time you washed your hands?

Because anything you might have touched before you grabbed that luscious BLT is now transferred to them.

And out in the street, thousands of people touch all kinds of things that you might touch too – almost a guarantee you’ll pick up whatever they’ve got.

Most times either blocked by your immune system – or in too little amounts to attack you effectively.

But wash your hands and the problem goes away.

Ordinary soap and water gets rid of 99.9% of germs – what the medics call Sterility Level 3 (count the 9s). Unless you’re unlucky, you’re probably safe.

Trouble is, we don’t wash our hands most of the time, do we? Especially out and about.

Once we’ve left home, we can go through a whole day without even thinking about it. Including after going to the loo, which so many of us somehow avoid.

Always on the go, it’s a grudge thing to do – like combing your hair or brushing your shoes. Too much PT and not enough time.

Until that innocent-looking BLT bites you back.

Yes, it’s food poisoning, but mostly transferred off your own hand. From any one of the trillions and trillions of viruses or bacteria that there are in the world. Take your pick for your own BLT.

B is for Bacon – and Botulism or B.cereus

Botulism for instance, is not very common – and not something anyone wants to catch. Because it’s not the bacteria themselves, it’s the toxins they produce that are so nasty. They attack the nervous system, not your tummy – causing paralysis that can kill you.

Much more likely on your fingers is b.cereus – yes, we ARE being serious! That’s bacillus cereus to give it its full name – also a toxin producer, but not quite so deadly. Vomiting and diarrhoea are its worst shots – usually all over in 24 hours. Leave your BLT lying around before you nosh it, and b.cereus jumps in on the bacon when it cools.

L is for Lettuce – and Listeria

Listeria is not nice either – and a real hazard for pregnant women. Because it’s not just unpleasant diarrhoea, listeriosis leads to aches, fever, loss of balance and even convulsions. Worst off all, expectant mothers could lose their babies.

T is for Tomato – and Traveller’s Diarrhoea

Traveller’s diarrhoea is the pits too, but not so threatening. Every traveller’s unwanted friend, it’s more commonly recognised as e.coli – one of the Big Four holiday bugs – e.coli, norovirus, salmonella and campylobacter.

No, you don’t want any of these. Which is why you wash your hands every chance you get.

Or if it’s too much of a drag, you carry antiseptic gel or antiseptic wipes.

For less than a quid a throw, they’re the easiest, quickest way to ensure you’re safe whatever you eat.

Not a disaster – a moment of pleasure.

Right there, at your fingertips.

Enjoy your BLT.

Originally posted 2015-10-01 14:45:40.

A big chomp of pizza – and 3.971 million germs

Pizza girl
Are you having 3.971 million germs
with that?

Yum!

Eating with your fingers.

Is anything better?

You bet.

Eating with your fingers AFTER YOU’VE WASHED THEM.

Germs for sure

Because however nice your chosen favourite is – it’s not worth the tummy cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea that visits you at 2.00 in the morning.

E. coli, norovirus – take your pick.

It could be any one of thousands bacteria or viruses on your fingers at any one time.

Collected through your morning until now…

Off the money in your purse, your Oyster card, the STOP button on the bus, the door handle of the coffee shop, the face of your mobile, the front door to your office, the lift call button, your computer on switch, the keyboard on your desk, the mail in your In-tray, your desk itself, your office phone, the photocopier start switch, the door to the loo, the tissue paper you use there, the flush handle, the bag of doughnuts for coffee break, the parcel from the printing company, the felt-tip pens for the update board, your face, your lipstick for touch-up, the conference room table, the overhead projector, the overhead slides from sales, the meeting microphone on/off, the stairway banisters, the lunch-time news-sheet, the pizza-joint window choosing while you queue in the street, the bag they put it in to take back to your desk…

Er, excuse us.

Where was “wash your hands” in all that?

Our minds go blank

Don’t look so surprised. Most of us forget, even though we’re sticklers for clean.

Yet everything we touch, every second of every day, is covered in viruses and bacteria.

We are too. Billions of them on our skin and clothing.

Billions more inside us too. Over 6 billion in our mouths, more than the number of people on Earth. More than 100 trillion in our gut – partners in helping us digest.

So when we pick up that pizza with our fingers, there’s plenty stuff for us to swallow that we’re not supposed to.

Yes, we’ve got bacteria inside us already – but the right ones, they’re supposed to be there. And most of the time, even the wrong ones are OK – our immune systems are too strong to let them take hold.

But the stuff on our fingers is dodgy. Often in quantities big enough to give us grief. And often really yucky stuff we’d rather not know about. Like if you didn’t wash your hands when you went to the loo, there could be poo on there.

Hold it!

Don’t take that bite!

Put it down and wash your hands first.

Be safe.

And don’t reckon you can blame the pizza company if you come down with something.

Those pizza oven are way too hot for germs to survive – 800°F, or even more.

And nobody touched your super-size slice. Straight off the pizza shovel, gloved hands on the cutter wheel, into the box, and bagged into your own hands.

Wash your hands and everything’s hunky. Quattro stagioni perfetto.

Forget and take a chance – you could be in hospital sooner than you think.

More than 800 people die from norovirus every year. More than 5,000 from e.coli. Add c.difficile, Delhi Belly and rotavirus – the numbers jump to over 80,000.

Don’t be one of them.

A wrong-way encounter with any of these nasties will be more than you can chew.

After you with the soap.

Originally posted 2015-09-28 16:04:42.

Holiday health hazards – it’s all in your hands

PIsa pizza girl
Lip-smacking, finger-licking, germ-spreading, whoops!

Step away from the street vendor!

Yes, it’s the most amazing croqueta de jamón in the whole world. And the same guy does the meanest shawarma ever.

But step away, NOW!

Fast food alert

No, not because the food is iffy. And not because that trolley is unhealthy. Tourism is big business, so everything gets checked with a magnifying glass. Watch out for the cops on their quad bikes, doing surprise inspections. It’s not the vendor you should be worried about.

It’s you.

Like, you’re hungry and you’re about to scoff yourself stupid. Street food on the way to the beach and a genuine all-over tan.

So when did you last wash your hands?

When you got up? Before breakfast? When you did your teeth?

And how long ago was that?

How many streets have you been down since? Did you grab the boat rail when you climbed aboard? You put suntan lotion all over that guy’s back – did you get it off your fingers?

And is that your beach bag lying on the deck? Reckon they hosed it down this morning? Before all the flip-flops and bare feet? And how about that beach you sat on?

Plus you high-fived with those Italian guys, chucked coconuts at the fair stall, hung on tight on the white-knuckle roller coaster – are you sure you’re ready for that croqueta de jamón?

Because if you come down with a bug or something, it’s not going to be the vendor’s fault.

The price of sloppy hygiene

It’s going to be yours.

And how’s he to compensate that your hygiene is so lax?

Yet chances are, while you’re groaning with tummy cramps, that you’ll blame him for your troubles.

Always dodgy in the street, you never know where anything’s been. Foreign food anyway, your system’s not used to it. You can never trust these places.

Yeah, right.

A load of bull, isn’t it?

Because you know when you washed your hands. And now something’s happened, you’re super embarrassed by it.

Like, how can you admit that you didn’t? Or that you don’t look after yourself regularly? You and the crowd that you’re with – your family, your mates? Ew!

But that’s not you, is it?

You’re on holiday, hyped up, getting out and doing stuff – you know you need to take care.

So you wash your hands every chance you can get. Like Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List, never trust a fart. Never pass up the opportunity to keep clean – because you never know what’s coming next.

Every time you go to the loo, of course. 30 euros in the turnstile, you might as well.

And excuse yourself to go to the bathroom before you eat anything. It makes space for more and you know you’re safe.

Pocket backup

Plus carry a hand gel, just to make sure. Your holiday is a whole eating experience, you don’t want to miss out.

Uh, huh. You get the picture now.

That mob at the hotel, groaning with norovirus. Going to sue the tour operator, are they? And you SAW the woman never went near the taps when she went for a sprinkle.

Clean is as clean does – and you’re ahead of the game. So when you climb on that jet to go home, it’s not you saying “never again”.

It’s a great big world out there – and you’re going to put your finger in every pie.

Go on, enjoy. Your hands are clean.

Originally posted 2015-07-16 13:36:39.

Amazing phone app warns of illness threats

Girl with mobile
A “Wash your hands” reminder even in sleep mode

Our phones just keep getting smarter.

With so many capabilities that most of us don’t even know are there.

Particularly this one, which all new phones have.

The lifesaver app

Maybe the most important one of all –because it could save your life. Actually prevent you from succumbing to that unknown dreadful illness you would never have known was there.

Seems only weeks ago that we jumped up and down, demanding that with all the super-advanced technology floating around there should be an app that stops us getting sick.

And here we are – more fool us – it’s been on our phones all the time. Like wow.

Even more incredible is that this app is active all the time. Including sleep mode, or when the battery is dead – and even when your phone is TURNED OFF.

First time experience?

If you haven’t discovered it yet, try this.

Without doing anything, hold your phone up to the light. You may have to angle it around to get the strongest reading, but it’s there.

You’ll see it’s obvious, all over the glass – a dull cloudiness, smears and finger marks.

A very useful indicator this. Subtle too, so that anyone looking over your shoulder cannot see the message. It’s discreet and avoids embarrassment. A priceless life-saving hygiene alert.

Because those marks on the glass is your phone reminding you that you need to wash your hands.

That screen is very sensitive see – well of course, it works by touch. And it makes the invisible – visible. Every contact we make with unwashed hands shows up as a mark – not necessarily of dirt, because our hands LOOK clean.

Dirt in disguise

Uh huh. Maybe that’s why we all forget to wash our hands as often as we should. Appearances are deceptive. We THINK we’re clean, but we’re not.

Because every smudge, streak, smear and stain on that phone screen is actually a germ trace – direct evidence from our fingers of the billions of invisible viruses and bacteria that surround us all the time. A visible signature of the ones we haven’t had an opportunity to wash off yet.

OK, so wipe the screen off and start again. Better still, clean your phone first – believe it or not, there’s at least 25,000 germs per square inch on there – more than in a toilet. Better wash your own hands as well, of course.

Touch the phone with clean fingers – and hey presto! Nary a sign of anything, the screen stays mirror perfect. Visible proof your hands are germ-free.

A hugely useful app, this. Because those marks also remind you of the germs lurking wherever you keep your phone – transferring to other things around it. The compact in your handbag, your purse, the make-up you carry around with you – your credit cards, pens, hairclips, scrunchies.

Oops. And that’s another hygiene hint worth, taking.

To clean out your bag and everything in it regularly – wipe them all down with a sterile wipe. Before any germs transfer back to your fingers – and of course, show up on your phone again.

Are you sure you’re safe?

Really jolts you into thinking about hygiene, hey?

Because the same applies to everywhere you put your fingers.

In your pockets, in your gloves. And all the other places you can’t sterilise that you also touch during the day. Grab handles on the bus, doorknobs, countertops, computer keyboards, your office phone.

There are germ traces on them too, but you just can’t see them. Some from you and some from other people. And what have THEY touched that might affect you? When did THEY last wash THEIR hands?

Makes you think before you bite into that doughnut with the mug of coffee at your desk, doesn’t it?

Better check first. Does your phone say it’s OK to touch the food you put in your mouth?Wash Hands Logo

And in the countdown between your coffee break and lunch, while you’re touching all those other things – documents from other people, packages from outside, the photocopier – will you remind yourself to wash your hands afterwards?

Should you set an alarm? Not to say it’s lunch time, but to remind you to wash your hands before you nosh? BEFORE you zoom out for the brie, tomato and basil baguette – which you can never seem wait to scoff because your tummy’s always growling already?

If not an alarm, check your phone anyway. After you’ve cleaned it of course.

Is it safe?

Are the germs gone? No germ traces? MIrror smooth?

With a brilliant app like this, you don’t want to come down with something when it’s so easy not to.

Originally posted 2015-07-06 12:09:51.

Not enough dirt as a kid? Time for a poo transplant!

Holding tummy
Get rid of the bad stuff and replace it with good

The more we look at our own bodies, the more amazing they get.

We might have sophisticated modern technology in our hospitals – able to diagnose and treat with the most intricate procedures.

But a good healthy baby can pretty well survive without any of them.

Do it all solo

Born into a world of just earth, wind and fire – and a mother’s caring love – it thrives exactly like cavemen’s offspring, millions of years ago.

What! No bath every day in body temperature water? No constantly-changed, irritation-free nappy? No sterilised bottles? No disinfected surroundings? No Calpol!

None of that while growing up either. Like farm kids today. Out in the open, doing stuff and enjoying life. Getting dirty, breaking bones, having a ball. All the the things that Elf & Safety would never allow if they were at school with city kids.

Result? Almost never ill. Tummies like cast-iron. Stiffened resistance to colds and flu. No allergies of any kind. Good, healthy, stop-at-nothing adults.

Nothing like any of us city-types, hey? Sick as a dog at the first sign of cold weather. Sensitive to all kinds of change in food. Slightest sign of any bug going round and we catch it – in bed for weeks, hospital, saline drips, the works.

Hygiene hypothesis

Medics call it the hygiene hypothesis – the notion that growing up dirty teaches the immune system resistance – how to recognise dangerous germs and defend against them.

Because us city slickers have none of that. We grow up in surroundings clean and pure, so our bodies never face any challenges. Even though each one of us has this hyper-tuned defensive immune system, just ready to take on any evil pathogens.

We’re not just us, you see. We’re actually in partnership with a whole load of germs that live in our bodies – 100 trillion of them at rough count, around ten times the number of our own body cells.

Which means one heck of a lot of getting to know who’s who that the immune system has to learn, growing up. Who’s good, who’s bad, who can help if things go pear-shaped. Who’s on our side.

Kind of important to get that balance right. Bad germs live in us just as much as good ones, held in balance so everything stays OK.

Keeping the balance

But every so often something skews that balance. Stress at work or in a relationship – worry, anxiety, obsession, longing. Next thing acid tummy, nerves shot to pieces, mind going dilly – stress.

And here’s this hyperactive immune system just itching to jump in and help – gung ho to clobber anything, so it chooses the first thing it comes across. Which kind of explains why we’re getting such strange allergies.

Attack!

There’s no holding back those immune cells. Which might trigger a reaction to all kinds of things – milk, nuts, eggs. Or even weirder things – why?

Because they’re there – water, money, mobile phones, underwear, sex, computers, exercise, even food and drink. There is also actually a man who is allergic to Nigel Farage, the politician.

So when you say the Six O’Clock News makes you sick, you could actually be right.

It could even be worse than that. A gastrointestinal disorder that your body just can’t throw off. Clostridium difficile or c.diff is so unpleasant, you might feel you want to die. All that goo inside you is out of balance, and without help, you’ll never come right.

Which is where the poo transplant comes in. If you can’t get rid of the wrong bacteria, or fight them off – it’s time to replace yours with good healthy poo, good bacteria, that can.

The power of poo

And not just for c.diff, but for colitis or any other intestinal disorder – even for conditions that haven’t been fully diagnosed yet. Sometimes literally the difference between life and death.

Sounds outrageous doesn’t it? Except human beings have been doing it for thousands of years. The Chinese used it to treat food poisoning and severe diarrhoea – a golden soup drunk so that bad bacteria were replaced by good bacteria from someone healthy. Bedouin Arabs still use fresh camel dung to cure bacterial dysentery.

A yucky idea, but it works!

Wash your hands

But so does being meticulously clean afterwards – which is why you must never forget to wash your hands. Always after going to the loo, always before eating food – because the fastest way to come down with any illness at all is to allow it into your system.

Your fingers touch everything and germs aren’t fussy. From stuff you swallow, from touching your mouth, from touching the sensitive areas on your face – they’ll stop at nothing to get in and grab a hold. And they’ll do that, whether you ate dirt as a kid or not.

Good health, good hygiene – and may you live long and happy.

Originally posted 2015-07-02 13:49:25.

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.

Wash your hands or die, the dawning reality

Concerned doctor
No more playing games –
hands that aren’t washed can kill you

A life and death issue.

Really?

It’s a joke, right?

Unless you’re on the receiving end.

Because you use your hands for everything, not so? You’re pretty well stuck without them.

Hands unprotected from germs

Which means they touch everything – good and bad – that is in our lives. And we do things with them almost without thinking.

Take bad. Dog poo on the carpet. Who knows what kind of germs could be lurking in there? Get rid of it, fast, before anyone winds up in hospital.

Uh, huh. Major health alert – we all know the drill:

  • wear latex gloves or hands inside a plastic bag
  • use paper towel to pick up with
  • use second bag to bin it
  • get more paper towel or cloth to clean carpet (plus bleach or detergent)
  • discard everything as waste
  • wash your hands thoroughly afterwards

Zero priority

Now take good. A double-header cone from the ice cream van – with flake and hundreds and thousands.

Probably straight grab and eat, right? Down the hatch before the van even leaves the street. Quite safe after the dog poo was washed off.

Slurp, slobber, enjoy – that was good.

OK, but how about the rest of the day?

Work, shopping, lunch, playing with the kids – easy stuff, no need to wash hands.

Simples.

Hang on a minute, how about before lunch? Don’t you wash your hands first?

The loo calls

And surely there must be a pee break or two- especially at the office, awash in coffee to keep you hyped up and on the ball?

Because most people don’t, you know – wash their hands before eating. Or wash their hands after going to the loo. And the rest of us are just a flicker under the tap – five seconds, gone.

Wash your hands? Sorry, I meant too.

Yet the dog poo was a whole major mission – so why does it get more attention than our own?

Fact is, however you finagle it, it is impossible – repeat, IMPOSSIBLE – to go to the loo without getting stuff on your hands. (Tweet this)

Worse, every flush creates a micro-spray of water mixed with yuck – too fine to see, but able to spread twenty feet or more. Spray and wee, spray and poo, nothing nice for anyone.

It gets worse

Plus of course, it’s not just your poo you have to worry about.

That posh-looking person in the three-piece suit just came back from Asia. Luckily no norovirus on the plane, but there were typhoid cases in the departure city.

Typhoid in the poo mist, highly contagious. A serious bacterial infection.

And if you don’t wash your hands, you could just be unlucky. Screaming high temperature, diarrhoea like you can’t believe, and yes, your bowel can actually split open.

Two weeks on antibiotics minimum. You could die if it’s bad – or find you’re no longer playing with a full deck. Worse than death if that’s possible. And all from not washing hands.

Far fetched? Panic stirring?

Have you checked how the medical people are getting worried about antibiotic resistance? Antimicrobial resistance (the other name for it) is No 1 on the radar for everybody from the government. on down. It’s when antibiotics DON’T WORK ANY MORE.

That means back to the Dark Ages – even the Prime Minister says so. You get an infection, you’re on your own because the medicines can no longer control it.

Which means it’s not norovirus – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease, or campylobacter (the raw chicken chucker-upper), or any of the usual suspects we have to worry about.

The real killers

Rediscover Hygiene logoIt’s the long-haul killers from way back – the heavyweight diseases that antibiotics were designed to eliminate: smallpox, measles, Spanish flu, bubonic plague, AIDS, typhus.

Catch any of those without medicine that works – and you’re a goner.

But all preventable – or very much a reduced risk – if you always wash your hands.

We shouldn’t have to remind ourselves, but we do – our lives are so rush-rush, do-it-now, that hand hygiene is always forgotten.

So yes, a life and death issue – and it only takes one lapse to trigger it.

Don’t let it be too late before it dawns on us.

Originally posted 2015-06-01 12:27:42.

Deceptive appearances – “clean” can be infectious

Woman with magnifier
Just because it’s clean doesn’t mean it’s germ-free

You can’t see germs, they’re too unbelievably small.

You can tell when they’re around though – the smell of something “off” or the discolouration of growths like mould.

And of course, the swelling round a cut, or the queasiness in your tummy.

Hungry to eat – you

They’re hard at work, doing the only thing they know how – eat. And it’s when they eat you, that you start feeling sick.

So the thing is, to stop them before they get the chance – a constant war against them, even though they’re invisible.

Uh huh.

But we’re surrounded by billions and billions of germs, all the time – mostly bacteria. They’re even inside our bodies, living in harmony – doing useful work, like help us digest food.

There’s still billions more, some good, some bad – tuberculosis for example is a very unpleasant experience. There’s viruses too – also not so good for us – unable to function properly without a warm human body. And all too ready to bring us down.

It’s because of germs that we have to keep cleaning things – not just that they’re yucky. They’re dangerous and infectious. (Tweet this)

We see the dirt, we rub or scrape it off, rinse away any residue – and assume that’s good enough.

Germs never give up

Except that germs are much more pernicious than that. And when you get down to microbial levels, what you think might be a smooth surface isn’t smooth at all. It’s like a rocky mountain range, with plenty of rocks and crags to hang onto.

That countertop you’ve just wiped down might LOOK clean, but could still be infested.

OK, we’re aware of that, which is why we use germ-killing cleaners like bleach. Oxidising action destroys the germs, so we’re safe.

In theory.

But like we said, germs are pernicious – and persistent.

Scrub, scrub

Was the bleach solution strong enough? Was it there long enough to kill everything? And didn’t you have to wipe it off afterwards, so remaining bleach couldn’t contaminate anything?

Chances are, only half the germs got clobbered – and anything else you wiped could have picked them up too – that wiping cloth is a double-edged sword.

Right, so it’s rub-scrub-wipe, rub-scrub-wipe all over the place – work surfaces, furniture tops, floors – and hopefully it’s safe. It certainly looks sparkling – a few hours well spent.

Well yes, but germs don’t just sit on flat surfaces, they’re everywhere else too – the walls, cupboard doors, the ceiling, behind things, underneath, and in every nook and cranny.

Oh yes, and the air of course – it’s 80% of the room space. Floating, swirling, drifting, hovering – so small and light they may never fall to the floor. Billions and billions of them, ready to catch on your skin or clothing, or for you to breathe them in.

Aargh! What can you do?

The Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease

For a start, wash your hands. You use them for everything and most germs spread on contact. So if they’re on your hands, they can transfer to everything you touch. Infectious, infectious!

Wash Hands Logo
Your personal everyday defence against germs

Like the soft tissue round your eyes, nose and mouth – because, would you believe, most of us touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times a day!

Want to know how nasties like norovirus get to you most of the time? From germs on your hands in contact with all kinds of things – other people, common objects, or believe it or not, from the loo. Your hands are infectious.

Which why, in this blog, we refer to it as the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

So what about the rest of the job, all those nooks and crannies? And how in the world can you scrub the air?

Total room steriliser

The easy answer is with a Hypersteriliser.

You’ve done the main work and got rid of the dirt and gunge. Now comes the follow-up to do everything else – and to destroy ALL germs completely.

Press the button and the Hypersteriliser generates an ultra-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide – quickly filling the place like the bathroom when you’re having a shower.

It’s no ordinary mist either. This stuff is ionised, with highly charged electrons all trying to escape each other, pushing in all directions to get away. This forces them everywhere – up, out, underneath and behind, deep into cracks and crevices – as far away from each other as they can get.

The same charge attracts them actively to fixed or floating cells of viruses and bacteria. They grab hold like a magnet, shoving atoms of oxygen at them – ripping their whole cell structure apart.

No germ survives this oxidising action. They are dead and gone – the whole place is sterile.

And the hydrogen peroxide? Without its charge any more, it reverts to oxygen and water – and an ultra thin, infinitesimally wafer-like layer of silver – used as a germ-killing booster and left behind as a protective antibiotic coating.

Yes, everything looks clean – and now the germ threshold is zero. No bugs anywhere, except the ones you might bring in with you.

And they’re no problem either – you HAVE washed your hands, haven’t you?

Originally posted 2015-05-22 12:23:43.