Posts belonging to Category germs

Where Do You Find the Most and Worst Germs in Public?

Before you leave the house, be sure to grab your hand sanitizer, you’re going to need it! Where are the germs lurking in the everyday things you do in public?

germsOur Favorite Eateries

Did you know that restaurant menus have 100 times more germs than a toilet seat? Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist with the University of Arizona, states that menus are handled many times each day, but are only wiped down once a day, if that, and usually with a used rag. His advice…don’t wash your hands before you sit down in a restaurant, wait until you order from the menu and then go scrub up or break out the hand sanitizer. He also suggests that you never rest your silverware on top of a menu.

When eating out, carry your own lemon or lime crystals if you usually squeeze a lemon or lime wedge in your beverage. Researchers recently examined wedges from the rims of glasses served to customers and found that nearly 70% of the lemons had disease-causing microbes, which could definitely cause some nasty stomach problems.

Moving on to the ATM Machine

When you think about it hundreds of fingers hit the ATM buttons each day leaving their share of germs and picking up ones left behind by previous users. The bank’s revolving door also has a collection of customer germs. The money that comes out of the ATM also carries its share of germs. In fact, the flu virus can live on a dollar bill for 17 days! ATM companies hope to roll out touch screens with antimicrobial glass to combat cold and flu. But, until then, your best bet is to use a pen when hitting the ATM buttons. It wouldn’t hurt to sanitize your hands after visiting a bank and handling money.

Playgrounds are Bacteria Breeding Grounds

On any given day many children use the swings, monkey bars and sandboxes in community playgrounds. Yet playgrounds are rarely cleaned. The sandbox is the worst with 36 times more germs than a restaurant tray. Be prepared to sanitize your child’s hands as he or she moves from one piece of playground equipment to another.

Hotel Rooms Have Their Own Share of Unexpected Germs

If you guessed that the TV remote is the dirtiest thing in the room, you would be right. Before you use it, wipe it with a sanitizer cloth. The lamp switches, hair dryer, telephone, and unwrapped drinking glasses also need a good wiping with something that can sanitize them before you use them. Bedspreads can also be harboring germs. You may want to remove them before getting into bed.

Elevator Buttons

Many of us choose to use a tissue when touching a door handle, but how clean are elevator buttons. How often are they cleaned? It might be best to sanitize your hands after using the elevator.

Public Pools

The Centers for Disease Control found that more than half of pools test positive for E. coli, which can cause bloody diarrhea. No surprise there, given how many young children urinate in pools and have bowel accidents as well. Also, not everyone showers before entering a pool; some adults swim with skin eruptions and others adults and children have colds and transmittable illnesses.

Grocery Store Grime

Many stores now have sanitizer dispensers and encourage shoppers to wipe down the cart handle before putting your hands on it. If you put a small child in the seat, wipe down this area also as lots of other kids sat there wearing dirty diapers. Don’t put your fresh produce in the seating area or you will take home a lot more than you bargained for.

Public Transportation

Bus straps, exit handles, poles, just anywhere that others touch or grab are sources of multiple germs. Railings leading up and down train and subway entrances and exits are used by thousands of people each day. Be aware. Keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth until you can sanitize them after using public transportation.

Public Bathrooms

Whether you have to use a bathroom in a department store, community center or other facility, practice defensive hygiene including using a tissue to operate the flush, turn the water on and off, and enter and leave the bathroom stall and main door. Line the toilet seat with toilet paper before using it, if toilet seat covers are not available. If wearing slacks, roll the pant legs up so they don’t touch the floor when you sit down. When using the soap dispenser, don’t put your hand on the opening of the dispenser, The soap scum can be a source of germs from those who used it before you. Whenever possible, use paper towels don’t air dry your hands.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Recently, developed and published the following message about foods to avoid while pregnant.

foodsBecause pregnancy affects your immune system, you and your unborn baby are more susceptible to the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are in some foods and can cause foodborne illness. Even if you don’t feel sick, some “bugs” like Listeria and Toxoplasma can infect your baby and cause serious health problems. Your baby is also sensitive to toxins from the foods that you eat, such as mercury in certain kinds of fish.

Keep this checklist handy to help ensure that you and your unborn baby stay healthy and safe. Be sure to invest in a food thermometer to check the temperatures of cooked foods.

Don’t Eat These Foods Why What to Do
Soft CHEESES made from unpasteurized milk, including Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, and queso fresco May contain E. coli or Listeria. Eat hard cheeses, such as cheddar or Swiss. Or, check the label and make sure that the cheese is made from pasteurized milk.
Raw COOKIE DOUGH or CAKE BATTER May contain Salmonella. Bake the cookies and cake. Don’t lick the spoon!
Certain kinds of FISH, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (golden or white snapper) Contains high levels of mercury. Eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish.Limit consumption of albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.
Raw or undercooked FISH (sushi) May contain parasites or bacteria. Cook fish to 145° F.
Unpasteurized JUICE or cider (including fresh squeezed) May contain E. coli. Drink pasteurized juice. Bring unpasteurized juice or cider to a rolling boil and boil for at least 1 minute before drinking.
Unpasteurized MILK May contain bacteria such as Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, or Salmonella. Drink pasteurized milk.
SALADS made in a store, such as ham salad, chicken salad, and seafood salad. May contain Listeria. Make salads at home, following the food safety basics: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Raw SHELLFISH, such as oysters and clams May contain Vibrio bacteria. Cook shellfish to 145° F.
Raw or undercooked SPROUTS, such as alfalfa, clover, mung bean, and radish May contain E. coli or Salmonella. Cook sprouts thoroughly.

Be Careful with These Foods Why What to Do
Hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, fermented or dry sausage, and other deli-style meat and poultry May contain Listeria. Even if the label says that the meat is precooked, reheat these meats to steaming hot or 165° F before eating.
Eggs and pasteurized egg products Undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella. Cook eggs until yolks are firm. Cook casseroles and other dishes containing eggs or egg products to 160° F.
Eggnog Homemade eggnog may contain uncooked eggs, which may contain Salmonella. Make eggnog with a pasteurized egg product or buy pasteurized eggnog. When you make eggnog or other egg-fortified beverages, cook to 160°F
Fish May contain parasites or bacteria. Cook fish to 145° F.
Ice cream Homemade ice cream may contain uncooked eggs, which may contain Salmonella. Make ice cream with a pasteurized egg product safer by adding the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heating the mixture thoroughly..
Meat: Beef, veal, lamb, and pork (including ground meat) Undercooked meat may contain E. coli. Cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts to 145° F. Cook pork to 160° F. Cook all ground meats to 160° F.
Meat spread or pate Unpasteurized refrigerated pates or meat spreads may contain Listeria. Eat canned versions, which are safe.
Poultry and stuffing (including ground poultry) Undercooked meat may contain bacteria such as Campylobacter or Salmonella. Cook poultry to 165° F. If the poultry is stuffed, cook the stuffing to 165° F. Better yet, cook the stuffing separately.
Smoked seafood Refrigerated versions are not safe, unless they have been cooked to 165° F. Eat canned versions, which are safe, or cook to 165° F.


Preventing Illnesses in Recreational Water

recreationalSwimming is great fun, but recreational waters can be a place to pick up illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in a recent press release asks that we all do our part in keeping our recreational water safe.

The CDC suggests following these healthy swimming steps to protect you, your family, and other swimmers from recreational water illnesses.

Three Steps for All Swimmers – Keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses:

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Don’t swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
  • Don’t assume that pool water is germ free because the water is treated with chlorine
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids – Keep germs out of recreational water:

  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean that it’s too late.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
  • Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.

Michele Hlavsa, CDC, states.”“You can get gastrointestinal infections, viral meningitis, ear infections – also known as swimmer’s ear – but the most common infection is diarrhea from the germs in recreational waters.” Ms. Hlavsa advises, “Don’t swallow the water, or swim with open sores.”

Bringing Germs Home From School

The following guest post is by Staci Marks, an earlier contributor to this site. Ms. Marks has a passion for health, fitness and exercise, which has led her to pursue a career in writing. She works as a part-time health-care writer at


As a habitat for germs, a school is not that different from any other location on our germ-filled planet.

Bacteria and viruses are always with us, and we literally couldn’t live without them. In fact, there are 10 times as many microbes in a healthy human body as there are actual human cells, and many of those microbes play critical roles in our survival.

Of course, not all germs are benevolent and schools, though they may be no more crowded with germs than offices or homes, are excellent environments for the transmission of all sorts of germs from person to person.

Children are particularly good at passing germs among themselves. They share paper and scissors in the classroom. They might share a drink at lunch. At recess, they do a lot of touching. To make matters worse, they are not very good at keeping themselves clean, and, even if they could be counted on to wash, they don’t always have easy access to soap and water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control,  the primary means of transmission is by sneezing and coughing, when infected droplets spread through the air and reach the noses and mouths of people nearby. Those droplets can also reach other surfaces, and infection can be spread to someone who touches an infected surface and then touches his eyes, nose or mouth. According to the CDC, some of those infectious agents can live for two hours or more after they land.

It follows, then, that avoiding germs at school depends on the behavior of people in two different situations.

On one hand, there are the children who are already ill, including those who have not yet begun to develop a full range of symptoms. The CDC recommends that those children cover their coughs and sneezes, preferably with a tissue, and wash their hands after every cough or sneeze. If tissues are not available, coughing or sneezing into the crook of the elbow is a better option than using the hands.

No one can guaranty that those practices will always be followed, so children who are in the vicinity of sneezing classmates may have to take some of their own precautions. For them, the two most important steps are washing hands frequently and trying not to touch their own eyes, noses and mouths after they have touched a potentially infected surface.

When children remember to use them, soap and water are effective against germs, but a quick rinse is not enough. It is important to spend enough time washing.  Many authorities recommend the “Happy Birthday” method: Wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing the one song all kids know, “Happy Birthday to You,” two times from beginning to end.

When children do not have the option of soap and water, gel and alcohol-based sanitizers kill germs just as well.

School bathrooms have more than their share of germs, but at least they are equipped with sinks that kids can use. Even so, children should learn to avoid touching surfaces like doorknobs and taps when possible, and to use a paper towel when touch is unavoidable.

In the end, there is no magic bullet.

Germs are everywhere, but children can take some simple steps to minimize, if not eliminate, the chance of coming down with a miserable cold or flu.