20 Apr

A rant about germs

One thing I’m not sure everyone knows about pregnancy is that our over-the-counter pharmacological options are extremely limited. That means, we pretty much can take paracetomol. That’s it. No Lemsips. No Flu Remedies. We’re not even supposed to suck on lozenges if we get a sore throat.

So, with this in mind, it always astounds me how many sick people seem to want to breathe on us. I found this winter particularly trying. I love a good double-kiss on the cheek as much as the next American-turned-European, but if you have a cold or a cough, please make due with a handshake. Or even just a friendly wave. There’s nothing more perplexing than watching somebody splutter, sneeze or hack up a lung just after they’ve pecked you on the cheek.

Thank goodness I don’t have to take the Tube to work every day and I feel bad for preggos who do. It’s like people forget their manners on the Tube: coughing without covering their mouths; sneezing into the open atmosphere. Haven’t they seen the public safety adverts about the speed of snot?!

This is a personal vendetta for me, which is why I feel so passionately about it. I refused to get the Swine Flu jab, so was particularly vigilant about illness this winter. All the media were saying that it was imperative to get the shot because swine flu was going to be an epidemic blah, blah, blah. Back in the 70s, my mother was told by her doctor to have a swine flu jab while pregnant with my little brother. He died an hour after birth. When long-term evidence was finally available, it became pretty clear that the jab was most likely the cause of his death.*

And now I’m sitting here crying because the thought of any babies passing away is traumatic for me, especially since I got pregnant and especially because it was a little brother I never got to know. I can’t even imagine what pain my mother went through and I hope I never find out. I’ve gained a new respect for my parents while being pregnant as they must have had to draw on a lot of personal strength to move on.

Before I sign off, I’d like to make a brief comment about plastic cutlery, specifically the ones in Pret A Manger (although I’m sure this thoughtless germ-spreading behaviour is prominent in other places, too). Every day last week, I ate at Pret. In an attempt to be healthy, I bought a fruit salad whether I wanted it or not. So I needed a fork.

In Pret, they make a big show and dance of pointing out that they use Rachel’s Organic milk in their teas and coffees, and their flavoured water has no added anything in it, so it’s super-duper good for you. Then, why oh why would they put their forks, unwrapped, fork end up in a jar for people to rifle through, infect and then use? At least put the fork end down. I know you can’t put as many forks in the jar when you do it, but just refill the freaking thing more often.

Before you sign me off as a germ phobic, psychotic American, let me tell you a little story. I used to work with a woman many, many years ago that made a startling confession to me about her husband and two boys. They suffered from a psychological disease called scatology, which is an obsession with feces (yes, you read that right). In this case, the disease manifested itself as a desire to eat it. So they did. And she told me that her kids were always sticking their hands into the unwrapped candy dishes at restaurants, rootling around with their little scatological fingers to pluck a delicious sweet from the bowl. I’ve never been able to touch candy bowls since. And I bet you will look at them in a different light, too, after reading this story. So please, Pret and other fooderies, handle side up on the cutlery!

Okay, rant over.

*I’m not saying that women who opted to have the swine flu jab this winter will have problems; I’m saying that the one that my mother had in the 70′s had problems.


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