Cold and flu season is upon us and though it is impossible to avoid all the places flu and cold germs lurk, there are some proactive steps you can take to reduce your risks to being exposed to them so readily. Knowing where these germs breed and thrive is half the battle of combating them. Below is a list of the germiest places you may want to avoid or how you should deal with contact with them:
Public Swimming Pools: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted studies that showed 70 percent of public swimming pools, 66 percent of water parks, and 49 percent of private club swimming pools all tested positive for E. coli, which is the bacteria found in fecal matter or what Dr. Oz would call poop. Pools that are commonly utilized by parents with small children, infants and toddlers are among the worst, as chlorine will not kill bacteria right away and it is known that swim diapers leak fluids and fecal bacteria into the water. Additionally, children pee in pools which bonds with chlorine, reducing the amount of chlorine in the pool to eradicate bacteria.
Public Drinking Fountains: Drinking fountains are cleaned infrequently and can contain more bacteria than a public toilet does, including the seat. You are much better served by carrying your own bottle of water.
Public Bathroom Door Handles: Not everyone washes their hands after going to the bathroom, in fact according to the CDC only 65 percent of women and a mere 31 percent of men washed their hands after using the bathroom. It is recommended that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water causing friction as you scrub your hands. You may wish to use paper towels to open the bathroom door when exiting to avoid picking up germs when leaving. Avoid placing purses on counter tops too.
Restaurant Menus: Restaurant menus are often handled by fifty to hundreds of people each day and are not sanitized throughout the course of business hours; they maybe get wiped down with a wet cloth once a day … maybe. Studies proved that germs transferred from restaurant patrons onto the menu can live for up to 48 hours and contain more than 100 times the amount of germs than found on a toilet seat! Wash your hands after you’ve ordered, but before you eat and try not to touch the back of the chair you’re sitting in either (another thriving germ site)!
Fruit Rinds: Before you order an iced tea with a lemon, water, or tropical drink you may want to skip the fruit. A study found that the lemons in restaurants tested positive for E. coli and 25 different types of bacteria and yeast in almost 70 percent of the lemons tested. If you are going to have your lemon anyway, order it on the side and squeeze the juice in your beverage and leave the fruit wedge on the side.
Money and Dispensers: Whether you’re dealing with cash or the ATM machines it comes out of, money is a dirty, germy business. Studies indicate that just one bill can contain as many as 3,000 types of bacteria and while most do not cause serious illness, the flu virus is one of them. Always wash your hands thoroughly or use a hand sanitizer after using an ATM machine or handling cash. The same is true for elevator buttons, gas station gas dispensers, bathroom blow dryer buttons and paper towel dispenser handles.
Shopping Carts: Shopping carts are likely one of the worst offenders when it comes to germs and dangerous bacteria. Not only are they often covered in flu and cold germs, but E. coli, salmonella and about eleven million other bacterial microorganisms that can truly make you or your child severely ill. Most grocery stores now offer sanitary wipes so you can sanitize that cart handle. Skip that top seat area (not even your purse should rest there) but especially do not put fruit or vegetables there. Bringing your own shopping bags is a healthier and eco-friendly solution. If you are putting your child in a cart be sure to sanitize it first and hosing the kids down when they get home couldn’t hurt either! But seriously, use those sanitizer wipes on their hands on the way out.