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Handkerchiefs pose hazards to health

When the word handkerchief comes to mind, naturally you think of something to tie around your head to protect your hair, or something men stick in their suit jacket pocket as an accessory. This is not the case here. It seems that there are still people today who have traveled back in time to before the disposable tissue was invented and are still using handkerchiefs as a means of blowing their noses.

The handkerchief, commonly referred to as a hanky, has been in existence since before the 1920s and was used in several ways: people wiped their hands and face with it, and they also blew their noses into it. This was, of course, until the Kleenex tissue was invented.

According to www.Kleenex.com, the Kleenex facial tissue was introduced in 1924 and was marketed toward women as a make-up remover. However, to expand its market and increase sales, in 1926 the company began marketing the tissue as a disposable replacement for the handkerchief.

The disposable tissue claims to be a healthier, less viral alternative to the hanky. Kleenex.com provides tips for cold and flu prevention, including using a tissue when you cough or sneeze because tissues can help trap germs so they don’t spread.

Dr. Chris Reiber, assistant professor of anthropology at Binghamton University, says that common sense would suggest that using a disposable tissue versus a handkerchief is a lot more effective.

“Handkerchiefs have the potential to be reservoirs of disease once used, at least until they are properly laundered,” Reiber said. “However, proper laundering in hot water with appropriate detergent and/or bleach should be sufficient to destroy any lingering pathogens. Tissues, although disposable, can also act as reservoirs since they are often carried in pockets and re-used throughout the day before being discarded.”

Kleenex.com highly encourages the idea that a tissue should be disposed of immediately after use, so remember to throw it away when you’re done; it just makes sense. As long as the tissues are disposed of immediately, they are a better way of preventing the spread of germs because it could be hours before you properly launder your hanky, and one can assume that you will need to use it more than once in one day.

Michelle Garcia, a sophomore French major, is surprised at the idea of not throwing away something that has your mucus in it.

“I see a girl every day in class who takes out a handkerchief and uses it, and I’m always a little disturbed by it. The hanky is supposed to be white, but it never looks as white as it should. I really don’t think it’s sanitary to use the same piece of cloth all day long,” Garcia said.

Danielle Bartolome, a junior neuroscience major, also finds the idea of using a handkerchief unsanitary.

“The idea of using a handkerchief seems a little outdated. Wouldn’t it be more sanitary to just carry around pocket tissues if you’re prone to having a runny nose? When I think of a handkerchief, I think of those bandannas [that robbers] wear around their mouths and necks, or something a gang member wears on their head. In this day and age never would I associate a handkerchief with a tissue,” Bartolome said.