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.

What are Empty Calories?

MyPlate.gov., a division of the Dept. of Agriculture offers the following information about foods we eat, and really enjoy, that really don’t give us the nutrients we need but do give us what are referred to as “empty calories.”

caloriesMany of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories –- calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)

These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.

In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called “empty calorie foods.” However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories are:


Food with some empty calories Food with few or no empty calories
Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars) Unsweetened applesauce
Regular ground beef (75% lean) (contains solid fats) Extra lean ground beef (96% or more lean)
Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin) Baked chicken breast without skin
Sugar-sweetened cereals (contain added sugars) Unsweetened cereals
Whole milk (contains solid fats) Fat-free milk

Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy.

It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.

Back-to-School Food Safety Tips

tipsThe following back-to-school  food safety tips are shared by Marianne Gravely, Food Safety Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These tips can make all the difference in keeping foods safe from the time they leave your home until your child eats them in school. Following these tips will prevent foodborne illnesses.

Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle or back in the car for all the parents. The new school year means its back to packing lunches and after-school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is Bacteria.

Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels, which can cause foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean – Separate – Cook – and Chill.

Packing Tips

  • If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources.  Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
  • Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
  • If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140 °F or above.
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snack for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

  • If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.


Walking Safety Tips

Safe Kids USA asks you to follow the tips below to make sure you keep your children safe while they are walking to and from school. Reviewing these tips regularly with your children can play an important role in keeping them safe.


Tips for Walkers

  • Developmentally, most kids can’t judge speeds and distances until at least age 10, so younger kids need to cross the street with an adult
  • Did you know most walking injuries happen mid-block or someplace other than intersections? Whenever possible, cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing the street, and keep looking and listening while crossing
  • Walk, don’t run, when crossing the street
  • It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths, but if there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible
  • Remove headphones when crossing the street
  • If you need to use your phone, stop walking
  • Distraction among drivers is at an all-time high today, so try to make eye contact with the driver before you step into the road

 For more road safety and walking tips go to www.safekids.org

Our National Parks

The first national park was Yellowstone in Wyoming created by President Grant in 1872. Some 30 years later, President Theodore Roosevelt would create an additional 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres’ worth of national forests.


President Theodore Roosevelt at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California, 1903

Here is your country,” President Theodore Roosevelt once said. “Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children.”

These protected and preserved parks, trails and areas contain natural wonders, like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and Niagara Falls on the border between New York and Canada.

Some of the parks are historical, and tell the story of America.

Fort McHenry near Baltimore, Maryland, which held out during the War of 1812 against British cannons overnight and provided the inspiration for our national anthem.

Ellis Island in New York harbor is preserved and houses an impressive museum detailing the stories of over 22 million people who came to America in pursuit of their American Dream.

The National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania allows visitors to walk the preserved battlefield of what was a major turning point in the American Civil War. The battle served as the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address.”


Hiking and walking outdoors, participating in a natural science or historical learning activity, touring a museum, taking a boat ride, or just having a picnic lunch, these are all just a few of the things you can do at a national park.

With over 400 trails, areas, preserves and parks across the country there is bound to be one near you.

parksThe National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) works to safeguard our national parks—to protect, cherish and celebrate these great American places.

National Parks Conservation Association:



If you are a veteran, or are currently serving in the armed forces of America, please take a moment to answer a few questions about your relationship with the national parks of America.


To find a national park near you:


To learn more about our national parks, you can visit the PBS site: “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (A PBS-Ken Burns documentary)


If you don’t happen to live near a national park, there are still many other state and city parks to enjoy.

To find the parks near you, visit Discover the Forest at http://www.discovertheforest.org/


Article by: Ned M Campbell is the head coach of James Madison High School’s wrestling team in Brooklyn, NY, and is a USA Wrestling nationally certified coach. He is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Officer, who also teaches history at James Madison teamHigh School.  Prior to teaching, Ned M Campbell worked with children and adults with disabilities during summer programs with IAHD and Southeast Consortium,  and volunteered time supporting a therapeutic horseback riding program for youth and adults with disabilities.

Campbell is a published writer, and a contributing writer to the “Can Do” Street blog for kids and parents. In addition, he is the voice of Coach Campbell in “Can Do” Street programs.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out Coach Campbell’s co-article for kids, on this subject, featured on the “Can Do” Kids blog at http://candostreet.com/blog-kids/