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Dirty lies

On Monday I passed a woman in the swimming pool toilets who didn't wash her hands. Breathe. I can now sit and be at peace with this truly horrendous nightmare situation, where at the time only the constraints of acceptable public behaviour and frankly, the law, stopped me from taking action to remedy this hygiene flouter. I think if I hadn't been a doctor I would have made an excellent toilet monitor. Calling that plan B.

Washing, drying, soap, gel, argh, it's gripped the nation and yet, should all be such common sense behaviour already, right? Firstly, I strongly recommend not believing everything you read in the press. Still less on social media. Especially when there's no evidence. Some articles can be very harmful. Many of us will have witnessed (or even participated in - gasp!) stockpiling of toilet rolls (are we hoping to forcibly manhandle the virus down the toilet?), overuse of alcohol gel, regularly eating garlic (presumably the virus is transmitted via vampires?), using saline nasal rinses, and/or washing your hands too often. Wait, what? Too often, I hear you say? Yes, it's true; overwashing and scrubbing can cause cracks in the skin, forming the perfect hideout for intrepid bacteria and viruses, and flaking skin can well, shed germs everywhere. Enjoy your dinner folks!

If you're sick to the back teeth of hearing about COVID-19, here's a little environmental sidestep (how could I resist?): a friend reminded me of all the water wasted from the push-down taps in schools and public toilets, when they release a massive torrent of water that lasts well over the time needed to wash and rinse even a small queue of strategically lined-up children. Certainly a lot longer than twice through "Happy Birthday to you" (this is a cute way to remember how long we should wash our hands for.). And don't forget the usual mess of paper towels on the floor. I reckon if they put a basketball hoop on the wall and adopted a cleverly-wired system where the external door would only open if your towel slam dunks into the bin, the floor would soon be clear of soggy mess.

Speaking of paper towels, any thoughts on the environmental impact of hand-drier v paper towel v bathroom towel v....secret option D? Aha! Secret option D is of course, drip drying. I've seen this in action. Well despite all attempts to provide clean and exciting towels in my own bathroom, the suspicious trail of drips and two tiny hand-sized wet patches on his trousers lead to my junior editor looking as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo. There's simply no denying this has zero carbon emissions, and makes him look eco-angelic when compared with the hand-drier (20g of carbon - or 3g for a fancy Dyson burst-your-eardrums), or paper towel (10g), but unfortunately WHO recommends that drying with paper towels or a drier is a necessary step in removing grubby germs. Another reason to remind my junior editor of his responsibilities.

So what can we do? Well first of all please stay positive and just be sensible about washing your hands after going to the toilet, before eating and other times when they are visibly dirty. Keep at least a metre from coughers/sneezers and catch your own coughs and sneezes in a crooked elbow or tissue. Check out the WHO and NHS websites for more information. Basically you only need a face mask if 1) you've been advised to by a healthcare professional, or 2) you're sanding MDF. And please don't fill your garage with tins and toilet roll. We aren't preparing for a siege.

And finally, why did the bacteria cross the microscope? To get to the other slide...

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