My older daughter started preschool when she was three.
That autumn, our lives changed — our healthy little family became a sick, exhausted mess.
Every three to four weeks for the next several years, at least one of us would be felled by some illness.
I remember commenting on it to the preschool director. She laughed and explained that it happened to every teacher and family new to preschool or daycare.
A perfectly healthy family or individual would, soon after their first exposure to school, dissolve into a puddle of sickly goo and stay that way for years.
It was due to the teeming mass of sneezing, coughing, nose-picking, walking petri dishes we called children, who cheerfully plastered germs on each other and on every surface in the building.
We were all immunized against the diseases for which there were vaccines. But, that didn’t account for those germs running free with nothing to stop them but a pair of clean hands.
We had to up our hand cleaning game, big time.
And here’s the thing about clean hands — one could almost say the conundrum of public health — when we use soap and water on our hands, we wash off most of the germs, but as soon as our clean hands touch an unsterilized surface (a.k.a. pretty much anything or anyone in the world outside of instruments in an operating room), germs hop right back on our hands.
The same is true with hand sanitizer. As soon as it’s dry and our hands touch a germy surface, we’re loaded for bear, as my grandma used to say.
One could ask, why bother to clean our hands?
It’s a fair question. The answer is simple — by cleaning our hands numerous times a day, we continually get rid of the hitchhiker germs.
If we add cleanliness to the habit of keeping our hands away from our eyes, nose, and mouth, then we have a good shot at avoiding lots and lots of infections.
Cleaning our hands frequently throughout the day is not a guarantee of good health, but not cleaning them is a sure way to spend a lot of time feeling lousy.
by Trish Parnell
Image courtesy Pixabay