Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A torrent of bugs

One familiar media standby is poor hygiene and how this or that everyday object is crawling with nasty bugs that could finish us off. In fact it's nothing short of a miracle that we're still alive, given the horrendous torrent of germs we're constantly exposed to.

Surveys keep telling us that the level of contamination on our smartphones, computer keyboards, dishcloths, kitchen worktops or toilet seats is staggeringly high because of our filthy habits.

The latest hygiene scare comes from a professor at the University of Arizona, who tells us our shoes are teeming with dangerous bugs. He says a new pair of shoes worn for two weeks could pick up 440,000 units of bacteria. Although he concludes the risk of catching anything really nasty is low, he suggests regularly cleaning your shoes with detergent.

Is he serious? How many people are going to keep scrubbing their shoes with detergent on the off-chance that if they don't, they're not long for this world? I would hazard a guess the number isn't far off zero.

Personally I take no special hygiene precautions other than washing my hands now and then, not wearing outdoor shoes in the house, and occasionally sweeping the kitchen floor. Am I constantly ill? Not at all. I'm actually remarkably healthy.

But I'm aware that a surprising number of people are hygiene-crazy and probably horrified enough by these scare stories to scurry around cleaning everything in sight and worrying they'll miss that one lethal bug that could do them in. The daily stream of lurid health warnings is the last thing they need.

The reality is that we're probably far more likely to die from jaywalking than from a vicious germ on the worktop. I'll say it loud and proud - I'm not afraid of my dishcloth.

22 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

Personally, I don't now anyone scared of such misleading reporting used mainly to sell multiple cleaning products and anti-bacterial agents which can render you resistant to antibiotics and thus kill you of pneumonia when you need such medication.

Perhaps it appeals to OCDers which is awful.

XO
WWW

Rummuser said...

I am like you. I also believe that such over fussiness can result in different kinds of phobias. Just taking normal precautions like you do builds immunity which is overlooked.

Mike said...

I don't worry about it much, though I do use anti-bacterial gel on my hands at the gym and wipe down the surfaces of machines after I use them, as do virtually all of the other regular patrons.

In recent years, the only times I've gotten sick was when I was working a contract gig. Most of my students were 25 to 35 and many of them had small kids, which I always assumed were the source of the germs that made me sick.

helen devries said...

'You'll eat a peck of dirt before you die'...phrase used by my grandmother's neighbour to people she thought of as over fussy...and that was back in the fifties...
I am casual in the extreme about housework...but have to be careful of anything which might have a go at Leo's depleted immune system...so no washing up sponges - a brush which is boiled before use does the job - and no wiping of hands on the tea towels...so far so good.

Joanne Noragon said...

If offered a squirt of hand sanitizer, I decline. I like germs. I count the growth of supergerms from the introduction of antibacterial soaps. We have been sold so many lies by the marketing industry. It's the job of our bodies to produce antibodies to germs, but a couple of generations have been convinced they can strip the planet of germs.

nick said...

www: Probably the reason we don't know anyone that obsessive is that our generation was taught that a few germs were good for you because they "built up your resistance". I don't recall my mum ever using cleaning sprays. Also I was reading that regular use of cleaning sprays can damage your lungs.

nick said...

Ramana: Indeed, quite unnecessary fussiness. Though I remember when I was young being told to wash my hands before meals. Who bothers to do that nowadays?

Mike: No doubt there's a survey somewhere that says gym machines are crawling with bugs.

nick said...

Helen: Yes, of course you have to think about Leo's health. I shudder to think what's lurking in my washing up sponges!

Joanne: I wouldn't normally use hand sanitizer, but I comply in hospitals because spreading infections to already ill people could have devastating consequences. But you might well be right about the growth of supergerms.

CheerfulMonk said...

I use hand sanitizers at the Y, but that's about it. I would go for taking our shoes off in the house, but Andy wouldn't and so far we have survived. Our immune systems aren't that fragile yet, thank goodness.

tammy j said...

LOL!
i'm not afraid either. although right now I'm having a bout of double vision caused by a deep inner ear infection in my left ear from water and shampoo. it came on so fast I thought it was a stroke.
they always think "heart" with me because of the hypertension. and because I am so rarely sick with anything NORMAL and germ related! and I am so happy to know it's just a 'bug!' I'll definitely be more careful with the water and shampoo however as it's not been fun! :)

nick said...

Jean: Our immune systems are much stronger than we might think. It takes some pretty fierce germs to get through the defences.

Tammy: Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear that. I had no idea water and shampoo could be so hazardous. Yes, you must be relieved when you only have a bug rather than something much more serious.

Bijoux said...

Looks like I'm the clean freak here! I wash my hands a lot and use hand sanitizer when I get in the car after using a shopping cart or handling money. I attribute my lack of illness to this. Have not had even a cold since April 2011.

Ms Scarlet said...

Totally misread the title as A Torrent of Buns....
I reckon my keyboard is a health hazard due to all the crumbs, I never clean it. Also, I once dripped mayo on a calculator that I used for work, back in the nineties. I still have the calculator... and it still has the remains of the mayo. True. I think I'm swings and roundabouts - I am a hand washer.... but not a keyboard cleaner!
Sx

nick said...

Bijoux: It never occurred to me to wash my hands after handling money! It hasn't done me any harm. I'm very rarely ill - I had just one minor cold during the winter.

Scarlet: I never clean my keyboard either. No doubt the bugs are reproducing in staggering numbers as I type. I haven't yet dripped mayo on my calculator - mainly because I don't like mayo.

Jenny Woolf said...

People who are super clean are probably damaging their health. Our bodies have evolved to deal with all kinds of bacteria, and many of these will interact with us in ways which might not be obvious - at least to us. One of the ways we stay healthy is by exposing our bodies to all kinds of different bacteria at a relatively low level so they learn what they are dealing with. The trouble surely comes when bacteria multiply to unusually high levels and we cannot fight them for one reason or another.

nick said...

Jenny: Quite so. It's exposure to a wide variety of germs that strengthens our immune system and keeps us healthy. Also, as I said to www, regular use of cleaning sprays for many years has been shown to damage your lungs.

Secret Agent Woman said...

My ex-husband (who was a veterinarian) used to say I had no respect for germ theory. But I had a father who used to take us camping and who always said that dirt that got into our food was "nature's seasoning." I just don't worry about it much. I never use hand sanitizer and I don't worry much about getting sick. I went to visit a dying patient in the hospital recently and I used hand sanitizer before I went into her room (as the hospital required) but that was to protect her, not me. I didn't wash my hands after I left. And I sure as hell am not going to start washing my shoes!

nick said...

Agent: I like the idea of dirt being "nature's seasoning"! Our bodies are much more resilient than some people imagine. They're not going to collapse because of exposure to a few germs. If that was the case, we'd be at death's door not long after birth.

I hardly ever polish my shoes, never mind cleaning them.

Liz Hinds said...

So true, Nick. It's a wonder any of us older generation survived the conditions we must have endured. I am only surprised I haven't murdered anyone out of my kitchen yet

nick said...

Liz: Indeed, my parents weren't scouring and scrubbing and cleaning all day, and I was probably being assaulted non-stop by thousands of bugs, yet I survived to tell the tale.

Polly said...

The keyboard on my laptop is disgusting, I do clean it when I suddenly notice it (like now) but I don’t even think about the germs that might be on it because they are my germs, and we all need a few germs to keep us healthy. The same applies to worktops, dishcloths, toilet seat etc. Everything is cleaned regularly. However when I’m out I migrate into a different mindset - I think about door handles, supermarket trollies, money, who has handled these things before me? Especially blokes (not you though Nick), no offence, just saying. I’m sure not everyone washes their hands after visiting the toilet. So if I eat out I wash my hands before, and try not to touch any handles, and I wash my hands as soon as I get home. One of the things I like about winter is wearing gloves. Oh dear I hope I don’t sound cranky!!

nick said...

Polly: Yes, we all need a few germs to keep us healthy. I wouldn't be that fastidious when I'm eating out, I assume the staff and other diners observe at least minimal hygiene standards. But that's a good point about gloves - that's probably why Her Majesty the Queen always wears gloves.