December 17, 2019
Trying to stay healthy while everyone around you is sick with the flu or a cold can seem like an impossible task.
Have you ever wondered about the most germ-infested places that you visit on a regular basis? Some of them may surprise you.
Your clothes actually are one of the biggest culprits within the home, according to Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. Because most people don't wash clothes in hot water and rarely use bleach, clothes could be carriers of viruses like salmonella and hepatitis, he told The Washington Post.
What can you do to prevent this? Start using hot water or bleach on your clothes. If you can't do that, dry them for longer than 30 minutes.
The kitchen is another hotspot due to all the food prep and dining that takes place. Make sure you are thoroughly wiping down counters and other surfaces in the kitchen with disinfectant wipes or spray, especially surfaces that come in contact with raw meat. Sponges also attract a lot of germs so run them through the microwave every so often.
Public transportation can be a minefield when it comes to avoiding germs. In public spaces like this, where everyone is forced into close quarters, the best thing you can do is to wash your hands thoroughly after you get to your destination.
While you might be thinking that if you drive to work you are safer, that is not necessarily true. Expedia rental car company study found that steering wheels have more germs than the toilet seat in public restrooms. Cup holders, seat belts, the inside door handle, gear shift and stereo volume knobs also are likely culprits.
"I can actually tell by looking at the microbiology of a car where it is from in the U.S.," Gerba told CNN. "We grew salmonella in the shop and we put them in the trucks of cars in different states. In the south and Florida, it's nice and humid like a sauna so you get tons of bacteria. Michigan is like a refrigerator, so it's loaded with fungi because they grow better at the colder temperature."
To keep your car as germ-free as possible, use sanitizing wipes on the steering wheel and other surfaces, and change the air filters and vacuum both upholstery and floor mats frequently.
Personal belongings, like your cellphone or purse, also are big sources of germs. They are used all day and often get put down on not-so-clean surfaces. Be sure to wipe down your belongings on a regular basis with alcohol-free antiseptic wipes.
According to Gerba, "a third of [women's purses] are contaminated with fecal bacteria, probably from being placed on public restroom floors."
The most likely culprits at work are the communal areas like the elevator, break room and public restrooms. You can imagine how many hands have touched those elevator buttons or those door handles. Most public restrooms are kept in good order, but you need to be careful about what you put on the floor – a big breading ground for germs.
Do you like to go out to eat for lunch or dinner? Tables are generally cleaned thoroughly after each use, but what about the menus and chairs? They can contain high concentrations of germs, experts say.
Before you panic, Mayo Clinic experts emphasize that while germs are everywhere, most will not harm you. Whether they make you sick depends a lot on your immune system. The best way to prevent an infection is by practicing good hygiene, including washing your hands regularly and getting recommended vaccines.
Additionally, always wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, using the restroom or changing a diaper. The rule of thumb is to wash them for at least 20 seconds. If you have kids, teach them to sing "Happy Birthday" twice while washing their hands. Alcohol-based hand-sanitizing gels can work in a pinch when you don't have access to soap and water.