Somewhere I once read that Donald Trump’s aides carry alcohol wipes for him, so he can clean his hands after every handshake. I don’t know if it’s true, but he has a reputation as a germophobe, so I wouldn’t put it past him.
Much as I don’t want to have anything in common with The Donald (although the equivalent of even a small percentage of his fortune would certainly be nice), I, too, am in the habit of cleaning my hands frequently when I’m in public.
In my case, however, I have a good excuse. I have far too many digital ulcers that provide super highways for bacterial infections, if I’m not careful.
So I am. Careful. Almost to the point of being obsessive/compulsive.
Recently I’ve been using mass transit more often when I have commitments in downtown Boston. Driving and parking can take up to an hour-and-a-half each way, sometimes even longer, depending on traffic. Taking the train enables me to get work done instead of wasting all that time driving. It’s also much more relaxing. But I never travel without my little bottle of antiseptic hand-cleaner.
I’m always cognizant of when my hands touch surfaces that many other hands have touched—like door handles between train cars or escalator handrails on the way to the T (Boston’s subway) or those straps or metal poles that you need to grab in order to stay upright when the subway jolts and jerks. When I arrive at my destination, out comes the hand-cleaner.
Other points of contact that make me wary: ATM consoles, those ubiquitous ball-point pens that are always handed to you for signing your credit card slips, doors to public buildings and magazines in doctor’s waiting rooms. Once I’m back in my car, out comes the hand-cleaner. I also keep my own pens at the ready.
Public restrooms, of course, are high on the list. I recently saw a video clip of The Doctors talk show that discussed where the most germs reside. It’s not the first stall, by the way. We all avoid that one. It’s not even the toilet seat. It’s the toilet paper dispenser. Think about it. Then there’s the door handle on your way out. So, my latest solution is to pour some hand-cleaner in my palm as I leave and rub it into my hands as I walk. (Washing my hands with soap and water doesn’t work because I have too many bandages.)
If all of this sounds a bit paranoid, well, maybe so. But I have had far, far too many serious bacterial infections in my fingers over the years. The pain can be excruciating. Sometimes I have ended up on IV antibiotics for months. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since that’s happened, and part of the reason, I am certain, is that I’m so careful.
My method is not foolproof. And I go through a lot of hand-cleaner. But the bottom line is that it certainly doesn’t hurt. And as long as I’m not insulting anyone by whipping out my hand-cleaner after a handshake, then why not? Minimizing infections—and excessive use of antibiotics—is well worth being a tad obsessive. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that bacteria isn’t out to get you.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.