Springingtiger's Blog


Of Piss and Peanuts

It is strange how the near delirium of a fever can run the mind down unexpected and not always welcome roads. I have a cold and my mind has strayed where I might have preferred it not to. If you are squeamish look away now! (Okay, it’s not really that bad!)

Some years ago scientists tested a bowl of peanuts. The bowl of peanuts came from the bar of an hotel in London, put on the bar for the convenience of drinkers. When the scientists analysed their results they found the peanuts contaminated by urine from (as far as I remember) twenty seven distinct sources. The cause was patrons of the hotel not washing their hands after using the toilet.

The National Health Service cut the incidence of MRSA and other infections by instituting more rigid rules on hand hygiene. The fact is that whatever we touch we carry on our hands. Most of what we touch and spread by contact with others (or peanuts) is relatively harmless. Some of it is not. We feed ourselves with our fingers, we chew our nails, some pick their noses. Each time we put our fingers to our face we are carrying whatever is on them to those membranes that will most readily allow access to our bodies.

I suppose I am more aware than usual of hygiene matters because I have a doozy of a cold, a real stinker and as we know colds are an outcome of viral infection. Unfortunately it is altogether too easy to acquire an infection. Theoretically we could seal ourselves away, like Howard Hughes, from all human contact and live in a sterile environment. However such an environment would prove sterile in more ways than one. Infection is part of the price we pay for living in society. If we did not catch the odd bug we would never build up immune systems capable of overcoming infection. I seem to remember that in the 1964 film ‘The First Men in The Moon’ based on Jules Verne’s ‘From The Earth to The Moon’. That the inhabitants of the Mood were destroyed by their lack of immunity to the cold virus inadvertently brought by the astronauts. I gave up sterilising my daughter’s bottles the day I realised she was happily putting anything she found on the floor in her mouth, it made me feel I was, perhaps, being over cautious.

It is possible to be too precious about hygiene, who would want to give up kissing? However a degree of caution protects both ourselves and others from unnecessary infection. I suppose what I’m really saying is don’t forget to keep your hands clean and above all, think twice before you eat those peanuts!

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