For the week of: 9/28/98
Question: "I have a real problem getting my children to wash their hands regularly. Since they both seem to trust the information they read more than what I tell them, could you please publish some good reasons to wash up?"
Answer: Glad to oblige since I personally feel that adequate handwashing is the key to reducing the spread of illness. The following information was taken from the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter and is a pretty comprehensive discussion of the best (and worst) ways to defend against germs
"Recently, possibly because of so much news about food poisoning, microorganisms have moved to the top of the national worry list. Half of all Americans, when buying soap and cleansers, choose antibacterial products. Dishwasher detergents and dozens of products to use on your hands contain disinfectants. Some people wonder if it's safe to ride a bus, use a pay phone, or touch an ATM machine. Feeding these concerns are a lot of busy marketers. Ads portray a dangerous world, seething with microbes. Lysol warns you that germs will move into your new home faster than you can. Toy companies impregnate products with germ-fighting chemicals. One ad assures you that black phones hide dangerous germs and offers to sell you a gaily colored "germ-guard" to fit over the pay phone, plus some "filters." You can buy antibacterial cloths, towels, sheets, and mops equipped for germ warfare.
It's well known that bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens can sicken and even kill people. Yet when it comes to fighting germs at home or on your person, keep a cool head. "Germs," meaning microorganisms, are all around us and, in fact, in and on us. Billions of bacteria reside on our skin and in our mouths, noses, intestines, and mucous membranes-resident flora, as they are called. Ordinarily, they are not a problem. Some, like intestinal flora, even perform vital functions such as helping to manufacture certain vitamins. Other residents are not helpful. For example, mouth bacteria cause tooth decay. Fortunately, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss are effective in fighting them.
Still other types of microbes, the transient flora, can indeed be classified as contaminants, but they are usually not troublesome either. Their life span on the skin is brief, and healthy immune systems have efficient ways of dealing with them. Microorganisms are here to stay, natural inhabitants of our habitat-or we of theirs (they got here first). An infant meets bacteria in its mother's birth canal before it even begins to breathe the air. Microbes are our lifelong companions, for better or worse.
There are many ways to defend yourself against harmful microorganisms. A healthy immune system is the best defense. Having a government and a public health system that ensure safe drinking water and proper disposal of sewage is another. Clean habits are another: keeping the kitchen and bathroom clean, washing clothes, bathing or showering at reasonable intervals.
But the single most important thing we can do to prevent the transmission of infectious organisms is to wash our hands often, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It's largely common sense.
Do antiseptic and antibacterial products really help?
Do antibacterials have any down side?
Are antibacterial sponges and cleansers and antibacterial cutting
boards advisable for the
What about alcohol wipes and hand washes?
What about antibacterial toys, mops, and phone-guards?
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