Did you know there’s fecal matter on almost everything?

Did you know there’s fecal matter on almost everything?

What do a man’s beard, the local swimming pool and your coffee pot all have in common?

Their surfaces are home to a variety of bacteria and fecal matter – yes, poop.

In fact, fecal matter is present almost everywhere we are – our homes, cars, workplaces, schools. The big question is, how concerned should we be?

“While fecal matter sounds pretty gross, the good news is that the risk of catching an illness or disease from it in our everyday environment is pretty low,” says Dr. Brian Yu, an infectious disease specialist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “The best defense is to practice proper hygiene whenever possible. It can go a long way toward keeping you healthy and well.”

Any item that you touch regularly is likely to contain some level of fecal matter or bacteria. One study found that 1 in 6 cell phones are contaminated with fecal matter. Other research has called special attention to baby toys and cribs, computer keyboards, toothbrushes and a large number of other everyday items in the home.

“Bacteria is really just a fact of life. There’s no purpose in worrying about it too much, as long as you make proper hand washing a strong habit,” says Dr. Yu. “You can also thank your immune system for keeping you well. It is constantly working, cataloging all the things your body comes into contact with, and developing new antibodies to keep them from harming your health.”

Dr. Yu offers these basic tips for daily hygiene:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Soap and hot water is always best, but alcohol-based hand sanitizer can work in a pinch. Wash your hands when returning home from a public place or after getting off public transportation. And always after using the restroom, of course.
  • Change your kitchen sponges frequently and/or use washable rags in the kitchen. Focus on keeping surfaces and sinks clean – and try to sanitize your coffee maker monthly.
  • Give your desk at work a good cleaning every now and then, especially in flu season. Wipe down shared keyboards and phones frequently to try to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Keeping your car clean in the cold winter months can be tricky, but it’s worth it to regularly wipe down the steering wheel and frequently touched surfaces like cup holders and radio dials.

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4 Comments

  1. Roxanne Slaughter November 7, 2017 at 11:24 am · Reply

    Great article !
    Knowledge is power. The article didn’t preach about washing hands; but instead offer facts (i.e. fecal matter everywhere) that would motivate people to be careful and proactive against the spread of disease.

  2. When the fecal material hits the wind machine?

  3. And don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth until you’re sure your hands are clean. I think this has everything to do with my not getting sick for the last couple years.

  4. I second Roxanne’s response. When people get on their soap box about handwashing, it isn’t as motivating as describing the chances of infection around us. I wouldn’t have thought about microbes in my coffee maker or the steering wheel, but now that I do, I feel more cognizant of needing to wash my hands. Definitely a well-written article.

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About the Author

Amanda Jo Greep
Amanda Jo Greep

Amanda Jo Greep is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. She has more than ten years of experience in communications and public affairs and has worked with a variety of nonprofits and health care organizations. Jo holds a master's of public administration degree in health policy and management from New York University. In her spare time, she is a Girl Scout leader, runner and amateur genealogist.

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