Do you know what my eight-year-old son said to me today, while we were outside getting our 30 minutes of sunshine and exercise for the day? “I’m going to create a virus.” Ummm, say what?!! He went on to tell me (his words) the virus would be called ‘The Happy Virus’, and we’d all catch it. It would make us happy and strong and we’d be full of confidence. How beautiful is that? And despite this wish-I-could-put-it-in-a-bottle-and-keep-it-forever moment, all I could think of was how he is so attuned to the unprecedented events happening around the globe, with COVID-19. Man, I wish I whisk my kids away to an off-grid (healthful) location for the next 3-6 months until the word Coronavirus is erased from their minds… Who’s with me?

The world is currently in a state of chaos. I personally find myself wanting to tune out one minute, and then read every morsel of information available the next. The problem is, I don’t know what to believe, what is accurate, and what is ‘click-bait’, and I assure you, some of the headlines are just that. Fear sells, sadly, and some media outlets capitalise in times like this. (This article is worth a browse, from Dr. Peter Dingle, someone I admire and whose professional opinion I respect.)

Our obsession with killing germs

I feel compelled, at this time, to write about germs (a term I’ll use to broadly describe bacteria and viruses), and how I feel about killing them. I am well aware that not everyone would agree with my approach. And I am totally ok with that; we each need to do what feels right for us.

While I understand the periodic need to eliminate germs, I strongly believe that half of the reason we are in the position we are in is that we have spent too long unnecessarily killing them all.

If you’re not yet aware, our bodies are covered in bacteria. “Microbes inhabit just about every part of the human body, living on the skin, in the gut, and up the nose. Sometimes they cause sickness, but most of the time, microorganisms live in harmony with their human hosts, providing vital functions essential for human survival.” (source – this article is interesting if you fancy sitting down with a cuppa.) Researchers have found that most people routinely carry microorganisms known to cause illnesses. However, in healthy people, they don’t cause disease, they simply coexist with their host (that’s us) and the rest of the microorganisms living in, and on, the human body.

Isn’t this interesting? We are covered in bugs, in fact, the average 90kg person would have 1-3kg of them in, and on, their bodies at any given time! Yet, what are we being taught? GERMS ARE BAD, DESTROY ‘EM ALL!! 

Are antibacterial products really the answer?

We’re being sold antibacterial and disinfecting products to solve problems we don’t really have. Bleach, surface sprays, dishwashing liquids, hand washes, wipes, fridge deodorisers, bandaids, toothpaste, mouthwash, shower gel, pillows, are just some of the items that are being marketed as antibacterial. And if you don’t believe me, go to one of the large supermarket websites and search using the word ‘antibacterial’.

By continually ‘sanitising’ every surface of your home, and areas on your body,  we also destroy the good stuff and add extra stress on our immune systems. And, considering the fact that most of these products are accompanied by fragrances, colours, preservatives etc., it’s a real worry, particularly for young children who are the most at risk of developing adverse reactions to these products.

Let me be clear here; in times of outbreak and contamination, different rules may apply to you. If you’re after official information regarding disinfection during the COVID-19 pandemic, read this article by the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.

What happens when you stop killing all the germs?

I’m known as a call-it-as-you-see it, uber-honest kind of girl, true story. And I will tell you now, that it wasn’t until I stopped trying to kill everything that we stopped getting sick! I used to get the gastro bug twice per year without fail – I started taking probiotics daily, and it literally stopped. It has been almost 7 years since I was last “vomit” sick.

I used to catch colds and flu’s (I’ve caught two flu’s in my life), but I stopped using antibacterial products, I stopped using hand sanitiser, I stopped disinfecting surfaces with harsh chemicals, and guess what? My family and I rarely get sick now; if we do fall ill, we typically kick it in 3 days tops.

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

In a nutshell, cleaning refers to physically removing particles and impurities from a surface, and disinfecting refers to applying a chemical to destroy germs on surfaces.

You all know by now that I am a ‘natural nutter’ and I do not use mainstream, commercial cleaning products in my home. However, I know that some of you do, and some of you that ordinarily might not, will change your minds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is you, you have the supplies at home and you understand the pro’s and the con’s, then do what you feel is right. Alcohol (70%), bleach, most mainstream disinfectants – they’re the common recommendations at the moment (remember, you can read more about this here). Please note that chemicals, whether on their own or within products, should never, ever be combined. This can result in serious harm, even death.

For those of you that remain adamant, like me, that you won’t be using commercial products to clean and disinfect your homes, this information is for you.

Regardless of the method you choose to use to clean and disinfect, make sure you are doing it frequently. Some safe and accessible household products that you might consider using include:  

Vinegar

While vinegar is not considered to be tough enough for the current outbreak of COVID-19, it is a staple in my house. I use it on all surfaces (even though you need to be cautious with some surfaces like granite and stone) on a daily basis. I infuse it with orange peel and rosemary, and believe it is an effective day-to-day disinfectant.

This comes from the American Society for Microbiology – Vinegar has been used for thousands of years as a common disinfectant, and if it can kill mycobacteria, the most disinfectant-resistant bacteria, it may prove to be a broadly effective, economical biocide with potential usefulness in health care settings and laboratories, especially in resource-poor countries.  

Castile Soap

Used diluted in a spray bottle to wash down surfaces, or as a hand/body wash, is effective in safely reducing germs, without destroying the good ones, according to me, but also David Suzuki.  

Hydrogen Peroxide (3-5%)

Also known as oxygen bleach, this is readily available from supermarkets and chemists and breaks down into oxygen and water. Add some to a spray bottle and apply to surfaces. According to David Suzuki, it needs to be in contact with a surface for 5 minutes in order to be effective. There is no need to rinse.  

Essential Oils

They have been around for centuries and possess some pretty awesome qualities. I use them to complement (and boost) my cleaning and disinfecting, but you must use them with respect. Dr. Peter Dingle talks about the antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial effects of essential oils in this article, with plenty of references for further reading. My top essential oils, when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, include: tea tree, lemon and clove.  

Other considerations

Vacuum frequently with a machine that uses a HEPA Filtration system (this traps dust and other harmful particles and stops them from reentering the air).

Open windows and get fresh air circulating.

Take shoes off at the door, get changed and shower as soon as you get home.

Launder clothes in water as hot as your clothing allows, especially if you have been out of the house and fear that you’ve been exposed to some baddies.

Good nutrition that is predominantly full of fresh whole foods, is not negotiable for us and should not be negotiable for you. It is often cheaper to fill your trolley with fresh fruits and vegetables, than packet and canned food. We cannot expect our bodies to serve us if we fill it with crap. Taking probiotics daily, as well as magnesium, zinc and vitamin C is worth considering.

Stress – the struggle is real, worse for some than others, and my heart breaks for those who have lost their jobs. But stress needs to be managed as it is deeply impactful on overall wellbeing and immunity. Remind yourself of the following: actively reduce stress, remain alert but not panicked, practice mindfulness and taking deep, deliberate breaths often, exercise every single day (even if it a slow walk around your street), get vitamin D from the sun, get bare feet on the ground, encourage positive thinking with the kids.

Hand sanitising, the topic on everyone’s minds…

When looking for hand sanitising options, firstly consider if you actually really need it? If you’re at home, with running water and soap, then you don’t need hand sanitiser!!! In my opinion, it is a luxury item, for the vast majority, and when they’re used, give people blind faith that they can carry on touching their faces, putting fingers in mouths, etc. I personally am not relying on hand sanitisers, my recipe or commercial, at the moment. Hand washing is always going to be my preference, not negotiable.

For those of you out and about, perhaps because you’re providing an essential service, and hand sanitiser is not a luxury item for you, I hope you were able to secure some. If not, consider asking your network of friends and family if they have some to give you, especially if they’re isolating at home with soap and running water. There are plenty of DIY’s on the internet (rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel being my preference, if I was desperate), but I will urge you to be cautious when using ingredients like ‘metho’ on your skin and around your children. This stuff, in my opinion, can be incredibly harmful.

It may be a long road physically, emotionally, spiritually and economically, for some more than others…

But, the pandemic will end, that’s a given. Will it be the last? Probably not.

Why not use this event, with all its increased restrictions and extra time at home, to invest in ourselves and our families? Get things done that normally wouldn’t get done? Start a new hobby? Do a course online? Try meditation? Start a puzzle (unless you have 2 kittens like I do, and then there is no chance of that!)? Flip this around and write a happy ending to the story, manifest a positive outcome.

I am hopeful, even if not right now, that by the time this is all over, we will use our ‘new-found’ knowledge of social distancing and personal hygiene to reduce the number of bacterial and viral infections in the future. I am also hopeful that many of you will be open to a more natural perspective, and the positive possibilities of living with less toxins.

Krissy Ballinger

Krissy Ballinger

Author, Advocate & Founder

With a background in health promotion, Krissy's passion is to educate and increase awareness on reducing the number of toxins that people expose themselves to on a daily basis, through an honest, simple and realistic approach.

She has sold over 20,000 self-published books and is now published as the author of Naturally Inspired, Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning.

Her recipes have taken her to the screen on more than one occasion, with morning TV appearances, and she received recognition as a ‘Woman Who Will Change The World’ in the AusMumpreneur business awards in 2018.

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