opinionBy Diana Nabiruma
A woman's handbag is like her second identity. It is indispensable, especially if she is going out.
But do you know that women's handbags contain more bacteria than the average toilet?
Well, tests done by Initial Washroom Hygiene show that the dirtiest item in an average handbag is hand cream; it carries more bacteria than the average toilet seat, while other items like lipstick and mascara were also found to be contaminated.
It also shows that leather handbags carry the most bacteria because the spongy texture provides 'perfect growing conditions.' It is, therefore, advisable that women should wash their hands regularly and use antibacterial wipes to clean their bags and contents.
Results of these tests were reported by the UK's Daily Mail last week. The technical manager at Initial Hygiene, Peter Barratt, said: "Handbags come into regular contact with our hands and a variety of surfaces; so, the risk of transferring different germs onto them is very high, especially as bags are rarely cleaned.
"Once these germs are on the bags, they can easily be transferred via hands onto other surfaces."
Tests showed that one in five handbag handles is home to sufficient bacteria to pose a risk to human health. Some women actually go with them to the toilet, and yet the bags are never cleaned.
Like the handbags, there are a number of items we least expect to be contaminated with germs yet they are. Think of lip balm. How often have you - with unwashed hands - scooped some from the tin to apply to the lips, and then passed over to a friend to also apply to avoid dehydration?
Items like wet soap, cell phones, towels, TV or radio remote, gym bags and toothbrushes, if not properly stored and cleaned, they put us at risk of disease as they are good breeding ground for germs.
Dr Julian Nabatanzi, a public health specialist, says any item that provides ideal environment for bacteria to breed will result in multiplication of bacteria.
What is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria? "Bacteria multiply in warm wet places that have little or no oxygen," Nabatanzi says.
Nabatanzi says contaminated items can cause infections such as the dreaded skin infection, acne, (which gets everyone asking what happened to your face), and those of the upper respiratory tract like colds and flu. So, think of those household items that you never suspect to be harbouring germs. Wet soap
By virtue of its being wet and then stored in warm, airtight soap dish, wet soap aids the multiplication of bacteria, according to Nabatanzi.
What can you do to keep your cleaning agent from turning into a home for germs? Nabatanzi advises that you keep it dry by leaving it open; don't put it in a soap dish and throw it in a bucket.
While towelling off, we not only leave water on the towel but some bacteria too. If a towel is not allowed to dry, the bacteria multiply, and sharing of towels could result in their spreading. You should, therefore, dry your towel, and it should be washed once a week.
Public hand towels should be avoided as you don't want to pick the previous user's bacteria.
Avoid keeping your toothbrush near the toilet because it can easily get contaminated.
A number of studies have shown that cell phones put users at risk of infection. One study found that one in six phones contained faecal matter! And we keep putting them against our cheeks, sometimes in our mouths! Faecal matter is transferred from unwashed or poorly washed hands to the cell phones.
A contaminated cell phone when in contact with the skin can cause skin infections. You can clean your cell phone with antibacterial wipes, after powering it down.
You throw your damp gym clothes into the gym bag and then you zip it up, thereby creating an ideal environment for bacteria multiplication. The next day while going to the gym, you throw your clean workout clothes into the dirty bag and then wear them, putting yourself at risk of disease. You ought to air out your bag and store dirty clothes in a plastic bag before throwing them in the gym bag to keep it safe.
One study found TV remote controls to be three times dirtier than anything else in a room. So, they should be wiped down with antibacterial wipes. Remember to remove the batteries before cleaning.
Other items that are good breeding ground for bacteria should be cleaned to reduce infection risks. Remember to wash your hands regularly with soap (not antibacterial) and water before touching food, after a visit to the toilet and after sneezing or touching infected material.
If we properly washed our hands, the items we constantly hold would not be as dirty as they have been found to be.