We have turned into a germophobic culture. Everywhere we go, there are sanitary wipes at the doors of stores that allow customers to wipe down cart handles. Many places have complementary hand sanitizer stands for customers and visitors who do not carry their own. Even in the choir loft, we have a bottle of hand sanitizer for Communion time.
Really, this effort is all about staying well. But really, is it necessary?
Yes and no.
Germs are all around us. They can be found in the open air, in biological liquid particles, on surfaces such as desks, bathroom sinks, toilets, kitchen counters, etc. Germs are even found on human skin. So, why the phobia about something that we all live with every day?
Because people get sick, sometimes very sick, and no one wants to be the person that does.
That is understandable, but sometimes cleanliness can go overboard. Those who have studied the hyper-sterility of life these days suggest that the avoidance of all germs especially around children can be counter-productive as the immune system does not get a chance to spread its wings as it were. The science indicates that children who grow up in areas where they are in regular contact with a variety of animals experience less asthma and allergies.
People who scrub the heck out of their skin with heavy soaps every day wash away the skin’s oils that keep it soft and supple in addition to the beneficial bacteria that work to keep us healthy.
And then there are the fanatics who wash the kitchen down with bleach every time they cook poultry when the prion that causes food poisoning cannot survive soapy water that is over 120 degrees.
Yes, it is possible to go overboard.
What science has found is that most serious human illness caused by germs can and are caught in two places: the kitchen and the bathroom. That is where cleaning efforts should focus, especially the toilet seat and the sinks.
To be the safest, cleaning should NOT be done with a sponge, but a cloth or rag that can be thrown in the washing machine in hot water.
ALWAYS wash with hot water. Most people prefer hot water on the cooler side, about 110 degrees. Consider raising the temperature on your hot water heater.
When cooking poultry, keep the raw bird and parts contained as much as possible, in a clean sink, preferably, that can be cleaned immediately after the raw flesh has left it. Also, use a plastic cutting board, DEFINITELY nothing porous like wood, that can be put in the dishwasher where it can and will be sterilized during the wash process. DO NOT cut anything else on that cutting board until it has been sterilized.
As for personal hygiene, on a daily basis, the groin and underarms do need a scrubbing with soap to keep a person’s bacteria, especially the ones that live on sweat and cause body odor, under control. The rest of the body, not so much unless one has spent the day in nature, especially rivers where fresh water can carry bugs that humans really don’t want. In that case, wash with an anti-bacterial soap such as Dial, and yes, wash all over.
What soap should we all use? Soaps have been developed for all parts of life. Just remember that in a pinch vinegar, alcohol and baking soda can also be used.