8 Germiest Public Places

8 germiest public places

Published June 14, 2013

Prevention Magazine

An average adult can touch as many as 30 objects within a minute, including  germ-harboring, high-traffic surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, phone  receivers, and remote controls. At home, you do all that you can to keep the  germs at bay. But what happens when you step out the door to go to dinner, do  some grocery shopping, or visit the doctor’s office? It’s not pretty.

Here’s where germs are most likely to lurk—and how you can limit your  exposure.

Restaurant menus

Have you ever seen anyone wash off a menu? Probably not. A study in the  Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for  18 hours on hard surfaces. If it’s a popular restaurant, hundreds of people  could be handling the menus—and passing their germs on to you. Never let a menu  touch your plate or silverware, and wash your hands after you place your  order.

Related: How To Prevent Getting Sick When You Travel

Lemon wedges

According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70  percent of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain  disease-causing microbes. When the researchers ordered drinks at 21 different  restaurants, they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons  that they secured, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria. Tell your server  that you’d prefer your beverage sans fruit. Why risk it? (You might want to skip  the diet soda while you’re at it; learn about 7 gross side effects of diet  soda.)

Condiment dispensers

It’s the rare eatery that regularly bleaches its condiment containers. And  the reality is that many people don’t wash their hands before eating, said Kelly  Reynolds, an associate professor in the community, environment and policy  division of the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public  Health. So while you may be diligent, the guy who poured the ketchup before you  may not have been, which means his germs are now on your fries. Squirt hand  sanitizer on the outside of the condiment bottle or use a disinfectant wipe  before you grab it. Holding the bottle with a napkin won’t help; napkins are  porous, so microorganisms can pass right through, Reynolds said.

Related: Is Your Kitchen Making You Sick?

Restroom door handles

Don’t think you can escape the restroom without touching the door handle?  Palm a spare paper towel after you wash up and use it to grasp the handle. Yes,  other patrons may think you’re a germ-phobe—but you’ll never see them again, and  you’re the one who won’t get sick.

Soap dispensers

About 25 percent of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal  bacteria. Soap that harbors bacteria may seem ironic, but that’s exactly what a  recent study found. “Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria  grow as the soap scum builds up,” said Charles Gerba, an adjunct professor in  the division of environmental health at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “And  the bottoms are touched by dirty hands, so there’s a continuous culture feeding  millions of bacteria.” Be sure to scrub hands thoroughly with plenty of hot  water for 15 to 20 seconds—and if you happen to have an alcohol-based hand  sanitizer, use that, too. (Prefer a more natural route? Check out this DIY  natural, effective hand sanitizer.)

Grocery carts

The handles of almost two-thirds of the shopping carts tested in a 2007 study  at the University of Arizona were contaminated with fecal bacteria. In fact, the  bacterial counts of the carts exceeded those of the average public restroom.  Swab the handle with a disinfectant wipe before grabbing hold (stores are  starting to provide them, so look around for a dispenser). And while you’re  wheeling around the supermarket, skip the free food samples, which are nothing  more than communal hand-to-germ-to-mouth zones.

Airplane bathrooms

When Gerba tested for microbes in the bathrooms of commercial jets, he found  surfaces from faucets to doorknobs to be contaminated with E. coli. It’s not  surprising, then, that you’re 100 times more likely to catch a cold when you’re  airborne, according to a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Health  Research. To protect yourself, try taking green tea supplements. In a 2007  study from the University of Florida, people who took a 450-milligram green tea  supplement twice a day for 3 months had one-third fewer days of cold symptoms.  (See what other supplements you need with the 100 Best Supplements For  Women).

Doctor’s office

A doctor’s office is not the place to be if you’re trying to avoid germs.  These tips can help limit your exposure.

1. Take your own books and magazines (and kid’s toys, if you have your  children or grandchildren with you).

2. Pack your own tissues and hand sanitizers, which should be at least 60  percent alcohol content.

3. In the waiting room, leave at least two chairs between you and the other  patients to reduce your chances of picking up their bugs. Germ droplets from  coughing and sneezing can travel about 3 feet before falling to the  floor.

 

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Published in: on June 15, 2013 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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