Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What's Wrong With Good Ole Fashioned...

...hand washing?

This has been bothering me since it happened a week and a half ago, so I've decided to blog about it...

This comes with the disclaimer that: I AM NOT A PARENT. So I really can't say for sure that I wouldn't be the same, but I don't think I would... But I don't know.

So, every now and again, a news story comes up that basically states that with all the drugs and such that we are using nowadays, we are creating a hearty strain of bacteria and germs that are antibiotic-resistant.

Just yesterday on NPR they were talking about how handwashing is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the spread of germs, and how 78% of people either a) don't wash their hands at all after using the bathroom; or b) don't wash their hands long enough to do any real good after using the bathroom. SEVENTY EIGHT PERCENT. That's just gross. And I was just patrolling the CDC website and several others, and they have actually launched campaigns about handwashing. CAMPAIGNS. Meaning tax dollars are being spent to tell people to wash their hands. What the hell? Weren't we supposed to learn to do this in kindergarten?

So anyway, the other day, I was in line at my new favorite place for lunch, Panera. And in front of me were 3 women, and each woman had 1 or 2 children with her. They had just come in from someplace, I don't know where, but they must have been outside, since they were dressed for it (sunhats, sweaters, etc.), and the kids looked a bit dusty.

They had given each kid a piece of bread from the sample tray, and the kids were happily running around, screaming, eating their bread, and just being kids. All of a sudden, one of the moms, in the midst of ordering I might add, shrieks, and demands her child comes over to her, takes the bread away and begins madly rifling through her purse. She is somewhat manic because she can't find her Purell. Mom #2 offers her bottle, and she squirts some on the kid's hands and makes her rub them together, then gives her the bread back and continues ordering.

So my brain immediately starts working, and I started to wonder all of the following...

1. The kid had already eaten half her bread. Why didn't they go in the bathroom when they entered the store and WASH THEIR HANDS???

2. Purell does a bang-up job of killing germs, but aren't the kids hands still dirty?

3. Isn't 2 or 3 years old a bit young to use Purell?

4. Since she used a sizeable glob of Purell and it didn't evaporate entirely on the little girl's little hands, isn't possible that said child was now eating Purell on her bread?

5. Is such a use of Purell leading us down the primrose path of finding Purell-resistant bacteria? And then what? Are we going to have to dip our hands in bleach? And what happens when bleach no longer works?

The thing is, Purell has its uses, and I use it regularly, because I see so many clients, and some of them are quite ill or don't live in the most sanitary conditions, and for me, it's a good stop gap between houses or between places I can wash up. But in no way, shape, or form, does it take the place of handwashing.

I dunno, maybe it's a symptom of our "gotta have instant gratification, instant results" culture these days. For the folks who now Swiffer instead of mopping, and reheat potroast from a plastic bag instead of cooking, maybe Purell is the just the logical next step to handwashing. But it strikes me that it a) doesn't solve every problem and b) could lead to bigger problems down the road.

(I never knew I was such a hygiene freak)

Sites on handwashing:

2 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Lara said...

Hmmm. Well, Emma knows how to wash her hands and knows to do it after the potty (not that she uses it yet!) They are required to wash their hands a lot at daycare, including when they first get there in the morning, so to her it's a natural thing to do. I do use Purell on her sometimes when we're away from a sink. I don't worry about the supergerms as much with it since it's alcohol. But, I think a lot of people do see it as a replacement for handwashing, which is silly, because it may kill the germs but it doesn't get the mud off!

Kate/Susan said...

Thank you, Lara, for confirming what I thought all along... Mud will not wash away with Purell :)