Well, it has certainly killed much of my hankie business which is usually in full flow this time of year, it being hayfever season. And you know what is even more exasperating? They are using MY tax money to bring you this advertising, effectively ruining my business.
This admonition to 'bin it' suggests that disposable tissue paper is more hygienic than cloth hankies. One school website says explicitly that cloth hankies are to be avoided. But when was the last time you disinfected a piece of tissue paper?
So, being the researcher that I am I took a closer look at my internet search results for 'swine flu and hankie'. Here are some of my conclusions:
(1) The habit of covering one's mouth with a hankie or tissue when one sneezes or coughs is no longer a habit amongst some of the younger people in this country. One writer complained about a mother letting her young child cough and sneeze and letting the outflow of solids and liquids spray all around the train carriage they were sharing, with no sign of guilt or remorse.
Another reported how a hoodie stood next to him at a traffic junction and started emptying the contents of his nasal passages onto the streets, and not always hitting the target.
Yet another suggested that "[s]urely the idea of people covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze is commonsensical, and a mannerly thing we should all learn from an early age".
(2) It is therefore a question of 'catch it' in the first place. The emphasis on paper tissue is misplaced, a sign that this campaign was probably designed by young people who do not know what a handkerchief is.
Compare the current campaign to this World War II poster:
Then, when tissue paper was non-existent, a cloth handkerchief did the job.
(3) Cloth hankies are still doing the job.
My husband is immunocompromised. He only uses hankies.
I suffer from hayfever. I use cloth hankies. Swopped back from tissue paper some years ago.
My son only uses cloth hankies. He loves the ones with his name embroidered in very large letters so no one throws them away ... again. (We suspect that some of his hankies had gone missing because other children did not realize that it was 'lost property' and not a funny kind of stretchy tissue to be put in the bin.)
My son also has one of the best attendance records in class, better than those who use only tissue paper.
(4) Sure, we put our used hankies back in our pockets. Some people say, "Yuck! Keeping all those bacteria in your pocket can't be good." But at least we keep our own bacteria to ourselves.
There is a Chinese saying: disease enters through one's mouth. Conversely, what comes out of us can't kill us. Might kill someone else, but not us. And that is the point: we must use a hankie to cover our mouth when we sneeze in order not to infect other people.
We wash our hankies. We dry them in the sun. We iron them. We are effectively killing any bacteria that might still be lurking.
When did you last disinfect a paper tissue?
Wash tissue paper? Yes, done that many times, by accident. They always end up in bits and stick to your dark colour clothes.
Dry them? They always end up in a hardened glob, does it not, in a bin or wherever?
Iron tissue paper? Never.
(5) Used tissue paper left in open bins which might not be emptied for several days = bacteria to share with all and sundry. Surely this is even more "Yuck".
In summary then, I suspect that the NHS campaign is targetted at people who do not use either tissue paper or cloth hankies in the first place. To suggest that paper is better than cloth is misplaced.
I wonder if my accountant could claim some money back from the revenue people for ruining my business. Or should I bring a case to the advertising complaints/standards folk? Anyone out there with expert advice for me?
Please share this post with your friends.
See also: This swine fever business