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The 9-to-5 Microbes

With numerous gadgets crowding the office and close contact with colleagues in a 24x7 work environment, we need more than a handwash to stay safe.
twitter-logo E Kumar Sharma   New Delhi     Print Edition: March 25, 2018
The 9-to-5 Microbes

Call it 'new-age hygiene', but it is high time you should be more concerned about keeping your electronic gadgets clean. Viruses and bacteria are now lurking all over the workplace, thanks to our talk-and-eat-on-the-go lifestyle, and these microbes are all-pervasive. You not only find them on mobile phones, landline mouthpieces and computer keyboards but almost everywhere - be it your work desk or the restroom door handle. Of course, there are plenty of infrared tools available for cleaning your gadgets. But it still boils down to the good old practice of washing your hands thoroughly, keeping the hand sanitiser nearby and not using your mobile phone in the washroom.

You may need to do more, though. The reason: A 24x7 work regime requires building the biggest armoury against microbes via some lifestyle changes. The aim is to ensure that one's immunity system is functioning optimally. Focus on a proper diet and get on a healthy sleep schedule as your body gives telltale signs in their absence. For instance, persistent mouth ulcers may indicate the body is under pressure due to stress and/or poor sleep.

Opt for healthy eating as your diet should not disturb the existing microbial flora of the human body and must ensure that your immune system remains strong.

Finally, try and stay healthy as any disease you catch is bound to lower your body immunity.

The bacteria-virus onslaught at workplaces is unlikely to hurt unless the immune system is weak. But one can still catch an infection if there are nicks and cuts or one is either sharing a PC or coming into contact with taps, toilet fixtures or door handles. In fact, you can easily catch the flu if these were earlier touched by people suffering from an upper respiratory infection.

"People still do not cover their noses and mouths when they sneeze. So, there is a constant flow of pathogens, and those with flu or respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV produces cold-like symptoms) will affect others," says Dr Lalit Kant, Senior Advisor, Infectious Diseases, at Public Health Foundation of India. "It is equally important to take care of workplace stress as that can lower one's immunity."

When Bacteria Boost Mental Health

Today, an entire industry has emerged around probiotics that aims to restore the necessary balance of bacteria in the human body. Different formulations are available in the market but not all of them produce the desired result. Read the labels carefully to check for storage temperature and see if it is stable throughout the shelf life. One cannot rule out cases where there are not enough bacteria present, or they may fail to reach the gut where they need to act.

M. Ratna Sudha, Founder of Hyderabad-based probiotics firm Unique Biotech, says now the focus is on psychobiotics. It is all about dealing with psychological conditions with the help of bacteria functions. Researchers are studying the bacteria that bring about biochemical signalling and produce neuroactive substances. These can act on the gut-brain axis and dispel anxiety and depression. In the long run, advanced psychobiotics may even cure autism and dementia.

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