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.

Myths about Keeping Food Safe in the Refrigerator


September is National Food Safety Education Month. The Partnership for Food Safety Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration want consumers to know that some beliefs people have about keeping food safe in the refrigerator aren’t true.

Myth 1: I know my refrigerator is cold enough – I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.

Fact:  Unless you have thermometers built into your fingers, you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40 °F.  And that dial? Important, but it is not a thermometer.

As many as 43% of home refrigerators have been found to be at temperatures above 40 °F, putting them in the food safety “danger zone” where harmful bacteria can multiply and make you and your family sick!

Slow the growth of bacteria by using a refrigerator thermometer to tell if your refrigerator is at 40 °F or below. And if it isn’t?  Use that dial to adjust the temperature so it will be colder. Then, use your refrigerator thermometer to measure again.

Myth 2:  Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!

Fact:  Bacteria can survive and some even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator.

In fact, Listeria bacteria can grow at temperatures below 40 °F! A recent study showed the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your refrigerator:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Clean up food and beverage spills immediately, and
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and liquid soap.  Don’t forget to clean the refrigerator walls and undersides of shelves!

Myth 3: I left some food out all day, but if I put it in the refrigerator  now, the bacteria will die.

Fact:   Refrigerator temperatures can slow the growth of bacteria, but will not stop the growth of bacteria in food. 

If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, putting it into the refrigerator will only slow bacterial growth, not kill it. Protect your family by following the 2-hour rule—refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cut fresh fruits and vegetables, and all cooked leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 ºF.

While refrigeration does slow bacterial growth, most perishables will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. To keep perishables longer than a few days—like most meat, poultry and seafood—you can freeze them.

Myth 4:  I don’t need to clean my refrigerator produce bin because I only put fruit and vegetables in there.

FACT:   Naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause cross-contamination in your refrigerator.

A recent NSF International study found that the refrigerator produce compartment was the #1 “germiest” area in consumers’ kitchens!  To prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, it is essential to clean your produce bin and other bins in your refrigerator often with hot water and liquid soap, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth towel or allow to air dry outside of the refrigerator.

For more myths and facts about food safety, go to:


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

Keeping Kids Safe as They Go Back to School

 As another school year begins, the American Red Cross suggests steps that everyone can take to make the trip back to school safer.

“When kids go back to school, parents should make sure the child knows his or her home phone number and address, parents’ work contact information, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1,” said Dr. David Markenson, chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and pediatric expert.

“Parents should also teach their children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know,” Markenson added.

Bus Safety

If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Other safety steps for students include:

  • Board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed you to get on.
  • Only board your bus and never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.

Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean:

  • Yellow flashing lights — the bus is getting ready to stop, and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop.
  • Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign — the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.


If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.

All drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones.

schoolBiking and Walking

Students who ride their bike to school should always wear a helmet, obey all traffic signs and ride on the right in the same direction as traffic.

Those who walk to school should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. Parents should walk young children and children taking new routes or attending new schools at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Thereafter, arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

Take a Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED course so you’ll have the knowledge and skills to act if an injury or emergency happens. You can also download the free Red Cross First Aid app so you’ll always have first aid information at your fingertips.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or their blog at http://blog.redcross.org.