Which gift will be yours: cramps, runs or barfs?

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Nobody wants to be ill at this time of year – wash your hands and you should be fine

Yay, festive season!

Jollies and super-grub. Ripping into gift-wrap and cramming our faces. May it all be wonderful and great for every one of you.

It isn’t always though, is it?

Not so nice

Because those tummy rumblings are not always from over-eating. Yup, from Noel to norovirus in just hours. The twelve days of cramps and misery – and all we want to do is die. What evil-minded soul lucked this onto us?

Actually, probably ourselves.

The odds on it being proper food poisoning are pretty remote. Both at home or in a restaurant, most food is prepared and cooked properly enough so that germs are eliminated. Though yeah, norovirus is highly contagious – and yeah, it’s probably from something we’ve eaten.

Except our own fingers put it there.

That’s the trouble with this dratted tummy bug. Most of the time it’s undoubtedly self-inflicted – a reality we tend to avoid, except it’s true – because norovirus is the undisputed No 1 Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Because our hands touch everything, right? And most of the time we think they’re clean because they look it, so it never occurs to us to wash them.

The invisible nasty

Not good when norovirus is so small it’s only 2 – 5 microns across. You couldn’t see that, even with a magnifying glass.

But it’s so easily there – picked up from high-contact locations like door handles, light switches, grab handles and keypads. And when you come down to it, when WAS the last time you washed your hands? Some time after breakfast? When you went to the loo?

Don’t be ashamed if you can’t remember, a shocking lot of us forget altogether. Would you believe that most of us never think of it after going to the loo – and pretty well all of us never wash before eating?

Now how about the things you touch that NEVER get washed, or never seem to – grab-rails on buses and trains, escalator handrails, just about anything walking down the street – even the inside of your own gloves.

Oops! But our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we take a chance without knowing it. And the norovirus transfers when we touch our face – which we do 3 or 4 times a minute without thinking – or when we grab a pretzel, piece of stollen or turkey drumstick.

Don’t want the bug – or the cramps? Wash your hands whenever you think of it and you’ll probably be OK.

Second nasty

A word of caution though, about the turkey drumstick.

Gnawing on it at table is probably OK – but turkey needs care in preparation, like any poultry.

That’s because most birds are naturally colonised with a bacterium called campylobacter. It’s harmless to them, but to us humans it’s a villainous carbon copy of norovirus – brings on the cramps, the vomiting and the diarrhoea – exactly what none of us need in the festive season.

Fortunately campylobacter is destroyed by cooking. When that bird is a delicious golden brown, all trace of the bug is gone.

There is a but. Which is that it spreads easily from uncooked meat, so that knives, chopping boards, plates – and of course hands – are easily contaminated during preparation. Wash everything thoroughly and the problem goes away.

Seasons greetings!

So now you’re safe. All set to enjoy every second of the celebrations.

We wish you a very happy and pleasant time – and all the very best for the coming New Year.

With any luck, somebody will give you a nice-smelling soap as a thoughtful reminder.

Go well, and don’t over-eat!

Originally posted 2015-12-18 13:54:20.