Did you know there is fecal matter on almost everything?
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 infection 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.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.