If you’ve had the urge to wash and sanitize your hands more often than usual, you’re not alone. Between cold and flu season and headline news, it’s all too clear that we’re surrounded by germs. Instead of feeling anxious or imagining the worst, there are constructive ways to make your environment healthier and less germy.
Extra and thorough handwashing is one of the best things you can do, but it’s also smart to recognize the top places you might be picking up germs and learn how to avoid them when possible.
Here are 7 of the most germ-covered surfaces people touch every day and tips to keep your family from getting sick.
It goes everywhere you do—including, for many people—the bathroom. It touches your hands, lips and face. It can increase your chances of getting colds, flu and cellulitis, a common and potentially serious bacterial skin infection. There’s a 1 in 6 chance that it’s covered in E. coli-contaminated poop, which can cause nausea, diarrhea or fever.
Make the right call:
- Don’t touch your face or mouth after handling your phone
- Leave your phone outside the bathroom if possible
- Disinfectant it with an alcohol-based cleaner at least once a week
Important steps to prevent the spread of germs:
- Wash your hands often, using either soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel for at least 20 seconds
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Stay home when you are sick
It gets sneezed and coughed on, eaten over and used as a nap station by the cat. It’s a germ fest.
- Shake crumbs out weekly and clean on and around each key with a disinfectant wipe
- Be sure to wipe your mouse and monitor down, too
Toothbrush and toothbrush holder
Think of your toothbrush holder as your own personal petri dish—always moist and rarely cleaned. It may be harboring mold, yeast, E. coli and salmonella. Your toothbrush may be incubating mold and fungus as it slowly dries.
Brush up on cleanliness:
- Get a new toothbrush every 3 to 4 months
- Hand wash the holder with soap and water weekly
Many of us give shopping cart handles a passing wipe if the store provides them. However, the whole thing really needs a chemical bath. In addition to spreading colds and flu via the handle, carts may be teeming with human and bird feces, saliva, raw meat juices, E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter, a bacterium typically found in undercooked poultry that’s one of the main causes of diarrhea and foodborne illness.
Be a smart shopper:
- Take advantage of the free wipes—or carry your own—and use them on all surfaces
- For extra protection, grab a handful of plastic grocery bags on your way in and:
- Use some to cover the handle
- Use the rest to bag your purchases as you shop, then place bags directly onto conveyors at checkout, bypassing those germs as well
Forget about the inside—that’s a completely different conversation. The outside of your purse picks up hitchhiking germs everywhere you go. One study showed that the handle alone could have more bacteria than a toilet seat. And depending on where it’s been, the bottom of the bag could be carrying even more germs, including strep, fungi, salmonella and E. coli.
Debug your bag:
- Clean the handle and outside of your purse regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based cleaner if possible
- Keep in mind that pebbled surfaces provide more hiding places for bugs than smooth ones
- NEVER put your purse on the floor, especially in places such as bathrooms and restaurants; also avoid tossing it on other germy areas such as kitchen and bathroom counters
Every time your fur baby slobbers on her toys, she doesn’t just transfer bacteria, she creates a wet, sticky place for other germs to thrive. There’s no telling what her favorites pick up as she drags them around.
- Keep multiple toys on hand so you can rotate clean ones regularly
- Disinfect rubber toys by hand or in the dishwasher (top shelf only)
- Toss fabric toys into the wash
- Keep pet toys away from babies and toddlers and off of furniture and counters
Anything with a handle or buttons
Buttons, handles, knobs, keypads. They’re everywhere and countless hands touch them every day.
These are among the germiest:
- ATM machines (the ones in laundromats and stores were found to be the dirtiest)
- Retail credit/debit card machines
- Door and toilet handles
- Bathroom soap dispensers and hand dryers
- Elevator buttons
- Escalator handles
- If practical, open doors or push buttons with your elbow/arm
- Create a barrier with a sleeve, tissue or wipe
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth or face until you can wash or sanitize your hands
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