If I said you were in danger right now from a hidden health threat we all face daily, would you believe me?  What if I told you that we all face the same threat?   And what if I told you there was no way to escape?  Well, you can’t escape it, but you can manage the risk.  How?  As a former food safety trainer and manager at a major retailer, I was trained to spot danger to the public health.  I’ve seen it all and that’s why I’d like to alert you to the problem.

It’s not your heart.  It’s not your blood pressure.  It’s not cancer.  It’s not some new strain of virus or even an undiscovered bacterium that turns you into a flesh-eating zombie.  

Most people don’t even know how insidious it is.  And yet it’s common to all of us.  It affects young and old, male and female, rich and poor alike.  Have you figured it out yet?  

It’s your hands.  

The Hidden Health Threat We All Face Daily

The Hidden Dangers

Every day, you shake hands with strangers, rub your eyes, touch doorknobs, keyboards, light switches and microwave keypads.  You wet your thumb and forefinger with your tongue while shuffling papers, you scratch your head, sneeze into t tissue, or open a car door.  

Oh, sure, maybe you don’t do every one of those things in the course of one day.  But in a week you probably make all those contacts.  And what’s the one common factor in all those things?  Your hands.  

What’s worse is that any of those things you do in a public place has been done by dozens, if not hundreds of other people.  All of those commonly contacted surfaces have been touched by children (you know how often they wash their hands), adults and the elderly.  What are the chances that each of them washed their hands just before touching that surface?  

So every communicable disease that is known to man (and some that are unknown) could be lurking on those oft-touched surfaces.  And every time you touch one of them and then put your hand on your nose, mouth, or eyes without washing first you have potentially infected yourself with whatever is there.  

See the problem? 

Managing The Risk

Don’t worry, though.  It’s not hopeless.  There are some very simple things you can do to help manage your risk.  Some are obvious, some are not.  I will try to list the main ones.  But the most important thing is getting you to think about everything you touch and be aware when you’re at risk.  

  •  Washing Your Hands for 20 Seconds With Soap and Water.  Most communicable diseases, as well as foodborne illnesses, are transmitted through hand-to-mouth or hand-to-eye contact.  I realize no one can wash their hands every time they touch a potentially contaminated surface.  There’s not enough time in the day for that.  But if you’re aware that your hands are not clean, you prevent further risk.  See the next item.
  • Never Touch Your Face with Your Hands.  Touching your eyes, mouth, or nose with contaminated hands is a great way to make yourself sick.  Use a facial tissue if you must touch those areas, and wash your hands immediately afterward.  
  • Clean Contact Surfaces Frequently.  Contact surfaces are common objects that must be operated with hands.  Here are a few examples.  You can probably think of many more.
    • doorknobs or handles, especially those in public places
    • light switches
    • touchscreen devices
    • computer keyboard and mouse
    • microwave keypads, especially in public or workplace breakrooms
    • telephones

Your Best Defense

There are too many ways to expose yourself to disease to list them here or anywhere.  Individual situations will occur which require proactive thought on your part to keep yourself safe.   So your best defense is a combination of awareness of the danger and the application of common sense solutions.  I hope I’ve given you some food for thought.  It’s only when y0u think and act proactively that you are prepared to protect yourself.   

Stay safe!