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Column: Kissing rocks, washing hands and avoiding novel coronavirus
Shannon Casas high res

My nana stood in a very long line to not kiss a rock at the top of a castle in Ireland.

The Blarney Stone is quite an interesting attraction. Legend has it you’ll get the gift of gab if you kiss this stone, and scores of tourists do it every year — which is exactly why my nana didn’t do it in 1997 when we visited. She doesn’t like germs.

The Blarney Stone could probably transmit a different sort of gift these days: novel coronavirus..

Now, I didn’t kiss it either, though I could have used the gift of eloquent speaking and conversation, especially at the age of 13 when I was so shy that just watching other people start conversations with strangers made me uncomfortable. But I was more concerned with falling through the gap between the castle’s rooftop and the wall where the stone is lodged. It was a long way to the green grass below.

My grandpa did kiss the stone. He probably gave it a big ol’ sloppy, wet kiss, the same kind he liked to give his grandkids.

He didn’t contract any viruses. I can’t speak for those who kissed the rock after him.

I’ve never been much of a germaphobe. But there’s certainly a time and place for sanitizing items and washing hands. 

The science seems pretty clear on the effectiveness of those practices for killing germs like coronavirus.

And for any doubters, the CDC actually has a whole list of reasons why we should wash our hands.

I imagine the author of the piece on cdc.gov must be constantly stunned with the apparent stupidity or stubbornness of some people who just don’t want to wash their hands — that or the author has a 3-year-old at home who’s always asking why.

Wash hands in running water, the CDC advises. Why? “Because hands could become recontaminated if placed in a basin of standing water that has been contaminated through previous use.”

Lather them with soap, the CDC advises. Why? “Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes from skin.”

If you want to keep fighting the advice, read more at cdc.gov.

The advice also is to wash hands for 20 seconds. I’ve personally noticed a marked uptick in time spent at the public restroom sink since coronavirus got to the U.S.

The CDC advises singing “Happy Birthday” twice to ensure you’re washing long enough. Atlanta Magazine suggests some songs by Atlanta artists you could try, including TLC’s “No Scrubs” or the Atlanta United team’s “We are the A” chant.

In any case, wash your hands. 

Some scientists say our society is too clean, and it causes a higher prevalence of allergies and asthma. 

The “hygiene hypothesis” suggested in 1989 that young children need to be exposed to germs to teach the immune systems what to do, according to an article on fda.gov.

As someone who has suffered with allergies my entire life, I might take one bout of coronavirus over a lifetime of sniffling and itching. The death rate of coronavirus is above 2%, according to many sources. I’m less likely to die of allergies — though for those with certain allergies, like specific foods, it’s possible, with a death rate of less than 1%, according to National Institutes of Health

But don’t worry, I’m washing my hands. And taking my allergy medicine.

And I’m not kissing any rocks.

As in all things, including reaction to the coronavirus, moderation is key. 

Stop ordering hand sanitizer on Amazon, and use the soap you’ve got. 

Cough in your elbow instead of all over the counter at the convenience store.

And plan rather than panic.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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