Living with the enemy

2011-07-09 15:31

Ever heard the saying “sleeping with the enemy”?

Well, actually you are sleeping ON the enemy.

According to a recent study by British scientists, your pillow is a germ-breeding hot spot.

Nasties like dust mites and allergens find a home on your comfy pillow.

Even worse, after two years of use, more than a third of the weight of your pillow is made up of living and dead dust mites, dust mite faeces, dead skin and bacteria.

The lead researcher and principal ­clinical scientist at St Barts Hospital, Dr Art Tucker, said: “People put a clean ­pillow case on and it looks and smells nice and fresh, but you are wrapping up ­something really nasty underneath.”

Tucker suggests regular old pillows be replaced by hermetically sealed ones to prevent the microorganisms from entering the pillow lining.

These pillows have their edges sealed by melting them ­together, rather than sewing them, and are available at speciality shops.

But germs don’t only lurk around ­pillows. Here are other unexpected ­places they invade:

1 Kitchen sink, kitchen sponge/cloth
A 2008 study in the US found that half of the top 10 dirtiest places were in the kitchen, with an excess of 500 000 bacteria per 64 square centimetres in the drain.

Even worse, the cloths we use to wash and wipe dishes and counters were shown to be teeming with bacteria.

Arizona University microbiologists tested a kitchen cloth that had been used for only one day and discovered that it had grown both faecal E.coli and faecal streptococcus bacteria.

According to Dr Charles Gerba, an ­environmental microbiologist at the University of ­Arizona, the kitchen is the most germ-ridden area in your home, with the kitchen sink containing more faecal bacteria than even your toilet.

Tips for hygiene
Wash the kitchen sink daily. Disinfect cloths and sponges by washing them with detergent or bleach.

You should also clean the kitchen counters and sinks with an antibacterial product after preparing or rinsing food, especially raw fruit and vegetables.

2 The bottom of women’s handbags
Arizona microbiologists found thousands, sometimes millions, of bacteria at the bottom of women’s bags.

The array of bugs found included eye-infection-causing pseudomonas, skin-infection-causing ­staphylococcus bacteria, E.coli and salmonella.

Tips for hygiene
Hang your bag on a hook, especially in public toilets, rather than throwing it on the floor.

Preferably, choose leather or vinyl purses as cloth ones are more porous and penetrable by germs.

You can also wipe your bag down with a mild soap or disinfectant and let it dry every now and then.

3 Wet laundry
Bacteria and mould form with surprising speed on wet clothing, according to health website Everydayhealth.com.

The situation is made even worse if you include underwear, which contains the equivalent of a small paper clip of faeces in each pair of dirty underwear, in your wash.

On average, a washing machine load can contain up to as many as 100 million E.coli bacteria.

Tips for hygiene
Everydayhealth.com suggests that you wash your clothes in water above 16°C and wash heavily soiled clothes separately.

You should also dry your laundry immediately to prevent germ build-up.

3 Wet laundry
Bacteria and mould form with surprising speed on wet clothing, according to health website Everydayhealth.com.

The situation is made even worse if you include underwear, which contains the equivalent of a small paper clip of faeces in each pair of dirty underwear, in your wash.

On average, a washing machine load can contain up to as many as 100 million E.coli bacteria.

Tips for hygiene

Everydayhealth.com suggests that you wash your clothes in water above 16°C and wash heavily soiled clothes separately.

You should also dry your laundry immediately to prevent germ build-up.


4 The shopping trolley handle
Just a few of the nasties found here included saliva bacteria and faecal matter.

This is ­because people’s (sometimes unwashed) hands, soiled diapers and bags all land up in the trolley.

Raw vegetables and fruit also contribute to the bugs found in shopping trolleys.

Tips for hygiene
Local retailer Pick n Pay introduced sanitising trolley wipes in its stores in 2007.

Operations director Neal Quirk said research ­undertaken shows that trolley handles were regular touch points in supermarkets, which leads to a high ­bacterial count.

“Using the trolley wipes reduces this count significantly (and helps to) ensure that trolley handles are clean and bacteria-free,” said Quirk.

If your supermarket does not have wipes, bring your own or use a dishwasher-safe polypropylene cover that fits over any size trolley handle.



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