Saturday, February 11, 2006

Public Restrooms: Getting Out Clean & Avoiding Illness in General

Very Public Restroom (picture credit)
I wasn't a germ freak until spending four months in a well-respected hospital where surgeons routinely "forgot" to scrub in, where communal pens were used without thought to what bodily orafice had been recently touched, etc. When my perfect little four-pound lump came home with me, every person, place and thing presented a dire threat to his fragile life. I became a germophobe.

When relatives cavalierly left the bathroom after taking a whiz without handwashing murderous rage bubbled within. When thoughtless moms brought sick children to church and the grocery store, it took great restraint not to box ears. But I digress.

My mission after witnessing appalling personal hygiene was to spread the germ-killing gospel. So tonight, I dedicate this post to eradicating disease in the world. Like Miss America, I want peace on earth and all disease stopped and this mission begins with me.

Threre are three ways to get sick:

  1. Poor hygiene
  2. Eating things that make you sick
  3. Low immune function
If you don't wash hands and touch someone else who doesn't wash hands, you exchange whatever bugs you carry. If you eat food not meant to be eaten, you get sick. If you eat a bat you can get Ebola. If you eat a monkey, you can get HIV. If you even touch a duck with Bird Flu, you can get Bird Flu. Finally, if you are stressed, your immune system function diminishes and your body is open to all manner of illness.

Now, how do we prevent sickness?
  1. Wash hands, thoroughly, e v e r y time you go #1 or #2, every time you work with food before or after, every time you touch an animal or person, every time you sneeze, every time you eat. Wash your hands! Wash your kid's hands after every public exposure--playgrounds, play groups, other nasty little kids.
  2. Quarantine yourself at the onset of symptoms not just when you're full-blown sick. Be impolite. When someone (usually a family member or close friend) says, little Johnny has had a fever but it's only allergies. No it's not. Allergies don't give you chronic ear infections. Allergies don't cause green goop to come out of your nose. That, my furry friends, is a virus or infection. Stay home. Make them stay home. Be rude. It is better than being homebound for three weeks as the ick cycles through your house. As an aside, the allergy excuse has been more in vogue recently. Every one, it seems has allergies, no matter the time of year. It's dust in January and weeds in August. Don't buy it. More than half the time, it's something contagious and the parents are just medicating to cover symptoms because it is an inconvenience to have a sick kid or to be sick.
  3. Boost your immune system. Lack of sleep, sugary foods (8 oz of Coke suppresses immune function for four-eight hours after ingesting), unresolved conflict, sad or violent movies/media, the news, a spouse who hates your guts, another virus (a cold), menstruation, pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, many medications, an oppressive boss, loneliness or depression, social isolation, excessive exercise, etc. lower your immune system. Do your best to eliminate these stresses wherever possible. We all have stress, so learning coping mechanisms helps, too. If you are crappy at conflict resolution, admit it and learn skills to help you. If parenting your toddler or teen is sending you around the bed, get help. If your diet is interfering with your health, put into place some simple behavioral changes. Not sure what to do? Email me and I'll try to point you in a helpful direction via books or other resources.
So you're getting sick, what do you do?
  1. Load up on Vitamin C, Zinc and Ginsing. All have plenty of research backing immune boosting properties.
  2. Sleep. Get horizonal, dude. Your adrenal glands function best when you are laying down. Give them the rest so your body can fight.
  3. Laugh. Read something funny, watch a funny movie. It boosts immunity.
  4. Get/give a hug. TLC really helps shorten misery.
  5. Let the fever work for you. A fever is turning your body into an inhospitable host--cooking the bugs. Let it go and you'll overcome it faster. If you have suffered long enough, take a warm bath and let the water go cool. It is a more gentle way of breaking the fever than an ice-cold shower or bath.
  6. Drink water and Powerade. You feel like s**t when your electrolytes get out of whack. Throwing up and diarrhea dehydrates you and you lose all of your water soluble vitamins and minerals. Powerade has the sodium and potassium you're pooping and puking out plus B6 which really helps you with the aches and pains.
  7. Massage. This increases immune function and accelerates detoxification. Don't be surprised if you feel worse before you get better.
  8. Chiropractic adjustment. At the first sign of sick call your Chiropractor. Sound self-serving? Kinda, but solid research shows that adjustments increase immune function immediately. It also helps to eliminate the aches and pains. What do people do who aren't married to a Chiropractor? I don't know and I sure feel sorry for them!
And finally, how in the world do you get out of a public restroom with clean hands? If you think you're doing a good job by washing your hands and then touch the handle with your moist (ewww, I hate that word) hand on the way out, I got bad news: you now have all five gazillion germs that the 50-80% of people who don't wash their hands on you now. Gross!

Another potential problem: you do your business, wash your hands and then touch the paper towel dispenser--well lots of people with dirty hands touch it too. Me, for example and I'll tell you why in just a minute. So you're contaminated even if you wash your hands.

Here is the procedure for being germ-free:
  1. Flush toilet with shoe bottom. Sometimes I look like a Kung-Foo master.
  2. When washing hands, dispense the towel BEFORE you wash your hands. Do not remove it yet.
  3. Turn on the water and wash hands with soap for at least 30 seconds. DO NOT TURN OFF WATER. (You will recontaminate yourself.)
  4. Tear papertowel, with towel turn off the water.
  5. With towel, get more paper towel if necessary. DO NOT THROW PAPER TOWEL AWAY YET.
  6. Use paper towel to open door. If there is not a trash bin by the door and not one easily accessible (like at a McDonalds), throw the paper on the floor. Sound terrible? It is the establishment's own durn fault that there is no sanitary way to exit the bathroom. Especially in a restaurant, you can be sure that your food is being touched by contaminated hands if a trash bin is not near the bathroom door out because the worker must touch the door with a bare hand if he or she also throws away the papertowel. If you find throwing paper on the floor beneath you, at least use part of your shirt to open the door. If you touch the door handle, you might as well have not washed your hands.
There you go. Why am I so obsessive about this? I know what sickness costs. When you are sick, you can't work. You can't enjoy your family. When you're sick you miss opportunities. People who are sick all the time end up with a very small life. It is horrible, I've been there. Instead of living an open, positive life where you move forward going toward what you want, you're in retreat, spending time, money and resources fixing what's broken.

You'll notice that extremely successful people care for their health in almost neurotic ways--professional athletes, CEOs, leaders all guard their health. Why? They know the cost to themselves and the people they serve when sick. They exercise, they are fastidious with hygiene (Donald Trump hates hand shaking for this reason) they rest, eat well and maintain their health through massage, chiropractic, medical check-ups and denistry. If they are smart in all aspects of life, they surround themselves with love and give love--lots of it.

Why do average people think that their lives are somehow less important? We all have people who count on us, who need us at our best. We need ourselves at our best. You have a God-given mission on this earth. Time is short. Do you want to spend your few breaths playing defense, sick, or wouldn't it be better to be moving toward your purpose healthily and happily?

See? Getting out of that bathroom with clean hands does matter. Now, go forth and spread the Gospel of Clean!


David Bockman said...

Let's not forget that veritable petri dish of germs, the handles of shopping carts at grocery stores. I've taken to bringing an alcohol wipe with me when I know I'll be coming in contact with one.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! I just shared it with my parenting forum.

Anonymous said...

My god, how horrible must life be to go through it filled with such paranoia. How did our species survive for the millenia before we invent antiseptic wipes?

Remember when we were kids? We played in the dirt and mud. We rolled around on the ground with dogs (or whatever farm animals we were raising at the time). We drank from the garden hose that had been lying on the ground for months.

Strong immune systems that have been exposed to and conquered multitudes of viruses over a lifetime are not very susceptible to infection.

I spend all of my free time outside. Camping, hunting, fishing (and the various animal butchering that these activities require) are about as dirty as you can get.

Sure, I wash my hands after using the toilet, and before eating if they look dirty. I even use soap. I have never even given a thought to touching the water faucet or the door handle.

According to my employee record, my last sick day was sometime in 2003.

Anonymous said...

How about telling your readers, not to use anti-bacterial soaps! Just plain soap and water is all one needs to effectively clean ones hands. Anti-bacterial soaps are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

True, using antibacterial soaps is useless most of the times because the efficacy of such soaps falls *behind* that of plain soap and water if you use them to wash hands soiled with organic matter, so you shoudln't use these soaps after going to the bathroom because your hands are soiled (even after urinating) and also it breeds multi resistant bactery colonies!

Plain soap and water is enough!

emily said...

Instead of throwing the paper towel on the floor, I take it out of the bathroom and throw it awsy at the nearest trash can. There's usually one nearby.

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