I have become somewhat germ-phobic. Part of this of course is the relentless media messaging about the swine flu. I am by no means obsessive compulsive about this (I knew someone who was-his hands were the color of a cooked lobster’s shell and the texture of roofing shingles.) but I have become acutely aware of the dancing microbes among us. Most places I go I don’t touch anybody or anything except what I absolutely have to.
If I use the mens room I use a paper towel on everything from the handles on the sink to the doorknob. I will even use my elbows to open doors if I can. This is because of an old joke. Did you hear about the constipated mathematician? He worked it out with a pencil. My version is-did you hear about the constipated finger painter? I need go no further.
I don’t partake of buffets because I am not too sure about the personal hygiene of those in close proximity with my chow. But modern science has found a solution-or have they? By now just about everywhere I go there is a squirt bottle of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers-how did we ever get along without the ubiquitous little bottles everywhere? A quick pump and a splash in my hand and I am safe, right?
But I have a sneaking suspicion that they actually make the spread of infectious disease worse. Let’s think about this for a minute. How many others have touched that same little spigot, some with far worse than just DIRTY fingers? And to make things worse research shows that hand sanitizers do not significantly reduce the number of bacteria on the hand and in some cases may potentially increase it.
Even the Food and Drug Administration recommends that hand sanitizers not be used in place of good old fashioned soap and water. By the way, the ingredients in hand sanitizer include water, isopropyl alcohol, glycerin, carbomer, fragrance, aminomethyl propinol, propylene glycol, isopropylmyristate, and tocotheryl acetate. Holy smokes!
But of course I have a simple, cheap and effective solution. Literally. Hydrogen peroxide. Chemical formula H2O2. Right. One little molecule different than water. Comes in a brown bottle and costs half as much as hand sanitizer. This stuff has been used since the 1800’s for everything from mouthwash to disinfecting cuts and wounds. It can be used to treat acne and bleach hair (peroxide blonde). Its only ingredients are hydrogen and oxygen. Get a small, cheap spray bottle and fill it up with the stuff and just spritz yourself when you feel less than fresh and it will actually do some good.
And it makes a dandy rocket fuel.