H1N1, Cleanliness and your Internals!

By | June 6, 2009

With recent hot temperatures in Taiwan, H1N1 and various viruses have reared their ‘heads’ as usual. So we decided to take things into our own ‘hands’ after we saw how the kids would wash their hands. Since Taiwan is a tropical climate, we were appalled at how children here would ‘wash’ their hands, so to encourage proper hygienic habits, we bought huge bottles of liquid soap, large piles of paper towels and lots of running water and sinks. We try to insist that kids wash their hands when they come to the buxiban. Even if it doesn’t prevent infections, it’s still worth teaching the children in our school this habit. For whatever reason, it’s a message they are not following through on at home or school

Unfortunately, though,  many public and private places in Taiwan just didn’t have the facilities to wash hands properly: no soap or towels (paper or otherwise), no running water,… and I was shocked at one of the reactions to our new handwashing policy. One of our local teachers said that she thought it was so WASTEFUL of paper towels (no doubt: soap and water). That notion of  ‘waste’ permeates a lot of businesses here and directly impacts the health of all the millions of people here. Why it is wasteful to use a little soap, water and a paper towel to wash your hands and it is not wasteful to treat any of a number of enteroviruses with expensive medicines and doctors’ visits beats me.

While it’s not just cleaning our hands that humanity is obsessed with: in some societies, it’s cleanliness of the spirit… Christianity talks a lot about purification. The notion that we are somehow dirty is intrinsic, perhaps even fundamental to a lot of our phobias about all bodily fluids and solids. An initial awareness that somethings were contaminated and therefore unhealthy or deadly to us somehow seems to have transformed into almost a religious obsession within churches and even in society.

Take a look at the health magazines or women’s magazines all touting products that promote cleanliness of the skin, body, mouth, teeth… almost every part of the body that you can think of. As we clean the souls of our bodies, the outside of our forms, … there are many products that aim to promote internal cleanliness, too. That’s right: you can buy any number of detoxifying products, herbs, potions, treatments… from cleaning our blood to colon cleansing.

What soap and water does for our hands, these products claim to do for our internals. And you can purchase these products for a few dollars, and you too will somehow be less polluted and feel great. The medical benefits are well known for washing hands: disease prevention in both the washer and those around. The ‘medical’ benefits of detox products is highly suspect at best.  The FDA in the US doesn’t regulate any of these products’ usage, and risks do apply. So if you are considering using these products, tread carefully. The manufacturers claims are not verified in the same way a medical product might be. In fact, the regulation is quite ‘loose’, if you forgive the pun!

Personally, to encourage my feeling of cleanliness, I’m going to stick with my Pure Soap and my large bottle of Dial Liquid Soap. For the internals, I’ll be eating fruit, vegetables and more fiber.