Germs Hidden in Plain Sight – How to Protect Yourself from a World of Bacteria
Whether you live in the city or suburbs, how you come into contact with germs varies. It may even surprise you where and just how much you surround yourself with them every day. Learn how you can help spare your system from the viruses of flu season, whether it’s from strangers on the subway or your own kitchen sink.
A sampling taken from New York’s subway found a significant amount of living bacteria in high traffic areas. 32% of human bacterial DNA identified was associated with the gastrointestinal tract, 29% was skin-related and 20% was associated with the genital area – the result of people not washing theirs hands after using the bathroom. Given this information, it’s not surprising that after recently riding on a bus or train, you are six times more likely to come down with a cold or flu.
To minimize contact with germs and bacteria on the subway, don’t touch anything if you can help it. Stand at the end of the train where there’s usually less traffic, and lean your back against the wall or vertical rail. This keeps you from coming into direct contact with the surfaces that get the most interaction. Try to choose the last car on the train. It usually has fewer passengers, therefore fewer germs. Be sure to wash your hands as soon as you reach your destination. Or, even better, keep hand sanitizer in your bag for easy and frequent access. Some cities, like Chicago, are even changing their CTA seats from fabric to plastic in order to minimize germ contact.
Desk phones: Almost half of desk phones are due for a serious wipe down. It may be one of the last things you think about when cleaning your workspace, but 43% of all desk phones have high levels of bacteria. So next time you break out the cleaning wipes, clean your phone, and you could reduce your rates of cold, flu and stomach illness by 80%.
Refrigerator door handles: 26% of refrigerator door handles are highly contaminated by growing bacteria. Because employees usually put food in the fridge as soon as they’ve walked in, the fridge door handle acts as a direct link to germs from outside the office.
Microwaves: Your office microwave acts as a breeding ground for bacteria. With a surface frequently coming into contact with unwashed hands, its no surprise microwaves harbor heavy concentrations of germs. In fact, about half have shown to contain high levels of bacterial contamination.
Kitchen sponge: In case you haven’t heard, your kitchen sponge fosters more germs than your toilet. In a recent study, 362 types of bacteria were found on a single sponge – ten of which had “pathogenic potential” or, the potential to cause disease. Even if you clean your sponge regularly, it’s not enough. Researchers found that the sponges that get “regular” cleanings host just as much bacteria as the sponges that don’t. To avoid a buildup of bacteria, it’s recommended that you swap your sponge for a new one at least once a week.
The car: Your car has more bacteria-laden hot spots than you’d think. Places you touch frequently like the steering wheel, radio, gear shift, cup holders and seats all act as a breeding ground for unwanted germs. To keep bacteria at bay, frequently wipe down these spots with anti-bacterial wipes.
Cutting boards: These unassuming surfaces take the number 10 spot for top bacteria-infested household items. 18% of cutting boards harbor potentially dangerous bacteria while 14% contain mold and yeast. To protect against bacteria-caused illness, make sure to put boards in the dishwasher after every use.
Regardless if you’re in the heart of the city or suburbs, germs are everywhere. By taking proactive measures to fight germs and bacteria before they spread, you can help keep you and your family’s health a priority.
source: Northwestern University – Northwestern Medicine