Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

During WWII you couldn’t travel on public transport in the UK with being bombarded by helpful advice about safety, diet and identity cards – yes, Britain had identity cards then but gave them up for incomprehensible reasons after the war. There was even a morning chat from the Radio Doctor just before the news. He seemed somewhat obsessed with the state of the nation’s bowels. His sonorous voice was much appreciated, people listened to what he had to say and he later became a Cabinet Minister. ‘From bottom to top’, you might say.

The most prominent of the advisories was “Coughs and sneezes spread disease – trap the germs in your handkerchief”. You saw it everywhere, with a cartoon character poised to sneeze explosively into the pocket handkerchief we all carried in those days. Handkerchiefs are now out and tissues are in – more damaging to the environment because so many trees have to be cut down, but more hygienic. Only if used properly, though.

In a country like Singapore that never gets a cleansing frost to kill the bugs, and one where infections flourish in the hot and humid climate, it is all too easy to pass on the damaging causes of colds, ‘flu, pneumonia and other debilitating and dangerous conditions. Coughing or sneezing without using a tissue is bad enough and to be seriously discouraged. Even worse is the habit of coughing or sneezing into your hand and then shaking hands with other people – almost guaranteeing that they will catch whatever you have.

So many of our bugs are thought by doctors to need the use of anti-biotics that many anti-biotic resistant strains of infection are now developing. This is a dangerous trend since these resistant germs can kill people of any age. So serious is the problem that President Obama has called for a massive injection of funds to research and discover the next levels of anti-biotic. But, as everyone knows, prevention is better than cure.

I note also that people are today seldom taught how to blow their noses. Wiping a runny nose with a tissue merely clears up what had already left the body. Blowing the nose more vigorously clears the airways and allows fresh air to pass its gentle hand over damaged skin. Of course, you mustn’t blow it so hard that it bleeds; short of that a good blow is refreshing and saves you having to resort to the unedifying practice of picking your nose.

Also usefully precautionary is the habit of keeping antiseptic wipes handy for cleaning the hands before touching food that it going into the mouth. The journey to a restaurant or home is infectious-bug hazardous. You don’t know what you have picked up on the way. A cleansing tissue reduces the risk by perhaps 90%.

Leaving used tissues lying around is another cause of germs spreading particularly dangerously. But all this assumes you have a tissue in the first place. People often forget this life support essential – as they do their mobile phone, business cards, umbrella, house keys and other items. Leaving home now requires going through a complete checklist.

I strongly recommend that you become a KYTER and reduce your role as infection-carrier.
Keep Your Tissue Ever Ready and you are automatically a KYTER, someone who is helping to reduce our dependence on antibiotics and make Singapore healthier.

Let’s beat the coughs and sneezes and stop them spreading diseases.

Good morning from your just-recovering-from-a-bout-of-it Paradoxer.