Unexpected places where germs lurk (and how to avoid them)

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Ewww. Germs are everywhere! But maybe not where you would expect.

According to Coverall North America, Inc., a commercial cleaning service, shoppers may encounter thousands of germs in a single shopping trip.

Just getting money from an ATM machine can expose you to an average of 1,200 germs — on each key. Use your knuckles to avoid getting germs on your fingertips, which you are more likely to put in your face or mouth.

As yucky as that is, it doesn’t even compare to the amount of saliva and bacteria found on shopping cart handles. Are you feeling sick yet? Are you wondering how saliva got on a shopping cart? I am. Make sure you use those wipes at the store entrance to clean off the handles.

Here are some more places where germs are hiding and how to avoid them:

Soap dispensers in the restroom: You would think these would be safe since there is soap in there after all, but not only do dirty hands touch the outside of dispensers, but the dispensers themselves probably have yucky bacteria lurking inside.

Food court trays: Trays sit on top of the trash can and then get re-used. Not every restaurant is disinfecting them in between uses. Do it yourself or skip the tray.

Water fountain/ escalator handrails: Your momma was not crazy when she screamed at you to “Keep your mouth off of that thing!” (I’m guilty). Water fountain spigots have million of bacteria on the surface. My great aunt never touched an escalator handrail without using a tissue or handkerchief. I thought she was a germaphobe. Don’t touch escalator handrails unless you have to and if you do, follow with hand sanitizer.

Toy stores/ electronic stores: If you thought bouncy houses and kid zones were bad, toy stores can be worse. Kids lead with their tongues, heads, and faces — all of which leave behind germs. Wash or wipe down with soap and water, alcohol or vinegar any toy that doesn’t come in a package. The same applies to electronic gadgets, which get a lot of handling in the store.

Your phone/ purse: By now you should know to wipe down your cell phone periodically. Touching germy things and handling your phone leaves germs behind. Cell phones apparently carry ten times more germs than a toilet seat. Your purse is another victim in the germ game. Putting it on the floor, countertop, etc., keeps those germs multiplying. Wipe it down or give it a good wash.

When you get home, you face a whole new set of germs according to a recent study from NSF International and Clorox. The study showed that the bathroom sink is most likely the germiest surface in your home, as well as the kitchen countertop. Both are surfaces most study participants thought would be the least germy.

Dr. Tanya Altmann, pediatrician and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mattel Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, offers these tips to prevent the spread of germs in your home.

  • Disinfect germ-filled hot spots: Use an EPA-registered disinfectant, like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, to kill 99.9 percent of germs that can live on hard non-porous surfaces for up to 48 hours. Wiping down hot spots is particularly important when someone in your home is ill.
  • Get vaccinated: We know the flu vaccine has had its failings this season, but getting one still offers you some protection.
  • Stay home when sick: This is one of the best ways to prevent germs from spreading, but is often the least followed advice. Adults don’t want to miss work and they don’t want their kids to miss school, but if you or your child is sick, staying home is the best thing for everyone.
  • Sing & scrub: Wash hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice).
  • Do the elbow cough: Teach kids to cough and sneeze into their elbows instead of their hands to help prevent the spread of germs by touch. And make sure you do the same!

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