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Ask Dr. Gott
Don't obsess over bacteria
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DEAR DR. GOTT: What is the best way to dry dishes? I mean, where would there be the fewest germs, and what would be the most healthful approach for the people using the dishes? One person I talked to will wash the dishes, take a towel and dry the dishes, then put them away. I say put them on a drainer, let them air dry, then put them away. Who would you say is correct?
    DEAR READER: When I first read your letter, I had a good laugh. Although my comments are not meant to insult or antagonize you, someone has to put this germ issue to rest. Let's analyze the situation.
    Problem: Wet dishes in the sink. Options:
    1. Drip dry
    2. Hand dry
    3. Machine dry
    4. Leave the decision to your spouse, who got home late
    5. This is a nonissue.
    Before coming out in favor of any specific technique, I believe that further analysis is important.
    1. This may take hours, during which micro-organisms will certainly land on the moist dishes, but so what? They're your germs and came from your food, your kitchen equipment and your hands. The issue here is, what bacterial damage are you risking? None.
    2. There's no question that damp towels can harbor a significant amount of bacteria, mainly from the previous night's washing routine. But, as I mentioned above, the bacteria are "yours" and, as such, should not be a health threat. If, on the other hand, your meal was cooked incompletely or prepared poorly, all bets are off.
    3. The heat during the drying cycle in most automatic dishwashers should kill any micro-organisms, but this choice is more trouble and is certainly energy inefficient for home use.
    My question is, why is this a problem for you? Leave it alone. Most species of bacteria are harmless and are valuable assets to our digestive systems. Furthermore, you are probably encountering thousands, if not millions, of germs in your normal daily activities.
    In response to your question, both of you are correct. Now, how do you deal with a thumb-sucking infant who sits in a supermarket cart? 

DEAR DR. GOTT: I was always told to cover my head in the cold weather to keep the body heat in. Now I'm told to keep my head covered in the heat to keep cool. Which is correct?
    DEAR READER: As a general rule, fabric, including hats, retards the release of body heat. Therefore, wearing caps during the winter make sense, whereas keeping the body heat in during hot weather will worsen matters.
    In most cases, people who perform physical labor in warm climates wear caps to protect the scalp from absorbing heat from the sun.

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