Celebrate National Food Safety Month by washing germs away
September is National Food Safety Month. Schools are in full session. County fairs and fall festivals attract people from miles around. Organizations start up again with regular monthly meetings. To many people, this is the beginning of the year.
Just the simple act of handwashing can make the difference between a fun day and a sick day later in the week. Research shows that school children who wash their hands properly and regularly have fewer sick days.
The pollen count from ragweed and related culprits are allergy alerts. People with allergy symptoms pull out tissues to wipe watery eyes and blow drippy noses. It is no wonder that September is National Food Safety Month; the opportunities for a foodborne illness outbreak are multiplied by the close proximity of bodies and the increase of body fluids flowing from them.
September is also a good time to be reminded of the ways to protect yourself from germs that live with us in our world. These microorganisms can live on doorknobs and toilet handles; garbage disposals and dirty tissues; grocery fruit and ground meat.
While attending a fun day at the fair I did my own informal, unofficial research study while waiting for my turn in the restroom. The probability of runny-nosed ladies spreading their unwelcome germy body fluids to the other women using the restroom was astounding. Many of the ladies failed to practice proper handwashing procedures.
The toilet handle and faucet handles can contain up to 50,000 bacteria per square inch. Cold causing bacteria can live on a dry doorknob for two to three hours. After they are transferred to an unsuspecting person’s hands, they can travel to foods and drinks that are prepared for others.
Wash your hands often. Twenty seconds of massaging soapy lather into the cracks and crevasses of your hands could save you two days in bed. Slowly singing the Happy Birthday tune can last 20 seconds, so does fervently repeating The Lord’s Prayer. Whatever your choice, it’s the lathering action that destroys the pesky little buggers, not necessarily the soap.
After your hands are clean, use a clean towel but don’t touch the paper towel dispenser with your fingers, use your forearm or the end of your shirt sleeve. Bacteria from other people may still be living on the paper towel button or crank. There are many nasty germs on the faucet handles, use a paper towel to turn off the water.
Some people don’t like to wash their hands because they have sensitive skin that chafes easily. For them bathroom paper towels can act like sand paper on thin skin. Patting hands dry can save skin but it does take longer to do.
Do not open the door of a public restroom with your bare hands. The doorknob and door surface contain unwanted germs from people who didn’t wash their hands properly. Use the corner of your shirt or jacket to open the door; if you saw what lives on those doors under a black light, you would never open a restroom door again.
Wash your hands often, especially when eating or working around food. Celebrate National Food Safety Month by trying to keep your hands bacteria free.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator and a registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330–684-4776.