HomeHealthArchivesJan 2014

 

The Germiest Public Places You Go Every Day

Whenever you head out to the mall, the supermarket, or a restaurant, you're putting yourself at risk for getting sick thanks to sick people who go out when they shouldn't. It opens you up to their germs when they cough, sneeze, or touch communal surfaces along their way. But the good news is you can lower your odds of getting sick.

Where Germs Lurk

Here are five of big hot spots where germs tend to lurk, along with some tips on how to navigate through these places in the safest way.

Department Store Fitting Rooms

The fitting room can be a big danger zone. It isn't just the surfaces that people touch that's a concern, but also the clothes. This is because when people try them on, they can leave traces of skin cells and perspiration behind, which can lead to bacteria growth.

The Fix: Before you go out to the stores to try on clothes to by, wear conservative undergarments that cover as much skin as possible. This will prevent new fabric from coming in contact with your intimate areas. Be sure any cuts or open wounds on your body are bandaged to prevent bacteria from getting inside. Once you buy something new, wash the item before you wear it.

Airplanes

With so many people all crammed into the confined space of the airplane, you're bound to be exposed to a bevy of germs at one time. While many people blame the recirculated air system in planes for making them sick, some experts believe that the real danger is actually when the air system is off, such as during boarding and delays. Airplane air is notoriously dry, which also makes it easier for viruses to thrive.

The Fix: Use hand sanitizer frequently when en route and avoid touching the trays on the back of seats, the airplane seat pockets, and anything in the bathroom since these areas usually aren't cleaned very often. Also keep the air vent open and directed slightly in front of your face in order to blow the germs out of your way. Finally, drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated and if needed, use a saline nasal spray to moisturize your dry nasal passages.

Restaurant Menus

You probably worry about safe food practices when you eat out, but you should also pay attention to the menu itself, which likely carries germs from previous patrons. Some flu and cold viruses can survive for up to 18 hours on this type of surface. Ketchup, mustard, and other condiment bottles can also be ridden with germs, since most restaurants don't make the time to bleach these items in between customers.

The Fix: Carry disinfectant wipes with you so you can clean your menu and condiments before you touch them. Or squirt hand sanitizer on them to provide a safer barrier. Also, be careful to keep these items away from your silverware and plate.

Grocery Store Carts

Your local supermarket may look clean, but the shopping carts are brimming with germs. In fact, one study found that the amount of fecal bacteria left on the handles was more than you'll find in most public bathrooms. And trying free food samples can also expose you to germs.

The Fix: Use disinfectant wipes to clean the shopping cart handles before you shop. And use hand sanitizer at the checkout counter. You're likely to touch multiple surfaces that contain germs. Also, skip the free food offerings left out for the public. If shopping makes you hungry, you're better off carrying your own carefully wrapped snack.

The Doctor's Office

It's ironic, but a visit to your doctor's office could make you sick. That's because the waiting room is often filled with ill people. All it takes is a cough or sneeze from someone within a few feet of you to expose you to their airborne germs. The magazines, the check-in counter, end tables, and chair surfaces can also be contaminated with bacteria and germs that cause flus, colds, and viruses.

The Fix: Now is a good time to practice being antisocial. Camp out in a deserted corner of the waiting room, leaving a safe distance (more than three feet if possible) from sick people. Use hand sanitizer after touching anything, and bring your own reading material. Also, cover your hand with your shirt sleeve before you grab a door knob.

Wash Away Germs

In addition to all of these steps, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the best way to prevent germs and protect yourself in any environment is to wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water as often as you can. If water isn't available, use a hand sanitizer that consists of 60 percent alcohol.