Count on it, in the very near future, your life will depend on soap and water.
They will be the only thing between you and certain death.
Good old lifesavers
So how you use them – or whether you use them at all – is already a lot more critical than you might ever imagine.
Because in your lifetime – and sooner rather than later – our wonder-drug antibiotics will no longer work. Bacterial superbugs will have mutated to become totally resistant to them.
Which means – going back to the dark ages before penicillin was discovered – that no longer will we be protected from our own adventurousness, recklessness, clumsiness, or foolhardiness.
Our new killers
Overnight, almost everything and anything could be the death of us.
- Eating meat — bacteria in meat is increasingly resistant to antibiotics and can kill us.
- A cut or scratch — before penicillin, 1 in 9 skin infections killed.
- Any surgical cut or incision — openings for even minor ops leave us open to infection.
- Dialysis or blood transfusion — any open blood vessel is susceptible to sepsis.
- Insect bites — especially the itchy ones, leading to infections from scratching.
- Colds or flu — even mild infections cause pneumonia. Without antibiotics, 30% of cases kill.
- Childbirth — which used to kill 5 mothers out of 1000, and more by Caesarean.
- Any cannula, ventilator or catheter.
- Surgical implants like artificial hips or pacemakers.
- Burns of any kind —the most infection-prone type of wound.
- Cosmetic surgery — without antibiotics, even Botox injections is no longer risk free.
- Tattoos — even the slightest skin blemish is open to infection.
So if anything happens to us, anything physical that is, about the only thing we’ll be able to do is wash it clean with soap and water. And properly, not just waggling around under the tap. Because if we’re suddenly socked by bacteria threatening enough to need antibiotics and soap and water is our defence, we’ve got to relearn everything there is about proper hygiene.
And here’s why. Right now:
- 95% of people don’t wash their hands properly.
- 62% of men and 40% of women NEVER wash their hands after the loo.
- Only 12% of people wash their hands before eating.
Make no mistake either, it’s ONLY soap and water that will do the job.
Why wipes wipe out
Antibacterial wipes are out of it – for the simple reason that bacteria are able to resist them too, as researchers at Cardiff University have recently demonstrated. And if MRSA, clostridium difficile and acinetobacter are able develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR), so can others. Worse, the wipes transfer resistant bacteria from one place to another, SPREADING contamination further.
Antibacterial soap suffers the same defect.
The triclosan ingredient mostly widely used to deter bacteria is shown by the US Centers for Disease Control to be itself prone to AMR, to the extent that major manufacturers are voluntarily withdrawing it and hunting for alternatives.
How about antibacterial gel?
Same only different. The active ingredient is alcohol, which breaks down the proteins of bacteria and some viruses, but not all of them. And without antibiotics to protect us, we don’t want something which does half the job.
Low tech and easy
Which brings us back to soap and water. Low tech, yes, but maybe cleverer than we think.
For one thing, most bacteria are either harmless or benign. So although we’re surrounded by them, we don’t want to wash off all of them – some of our usually resident “citizens” might actually be doing us some good. Soap and water action lets us keep these guys, but gets rid of the toxic “tourists” who might be threatening us.
Yeah, so rediscovering hygiene is not exactly going to kill us. Quite the opposite.
And as we’ve probably heard endlessly from our grandmothers, a little soap and water never hurt anyone.
Picture Copyright: kalcutta / 123RF Stock Photo