These 11 public surfaces are covered in germs

These 11 public surfaces are covered in germs

All day, you’re using your hands to grab, push and touch things that have been grabbed, pushed and touched by hundreds – maybe thousands – of people before you.

And each time you do that, you’re coming into contact with the countless germs their dirty hands left behind.

Kelly Blair, an infection preventionist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., says the first step in protecting yourself against those germs is to know where they’re most likely to be. She says you need to be aware of your surroundings and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth when possible.

“I think people would be amazed to know how many things they touch each day without thinking about it and how many of these things actually have the potential for being really germy,” Blair says. “If they knew, they might change some of their habits, like licking their fingers before turning a page in a book, putting pens and pencils in their mouths and biting their nails.”

The following list of germy public surfaces is based on suggestions from Blair. Although totally limiting your exposure to them isn’t possible, you can keep hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes with you and use them after touching these things, she suggests.

  1. Restaurant menus
  2. TV remote controls in hotel rooms and other public places
  3. All door knobs and handles, especially those in restrooms
  4. Escalator railings
  5. Shopping cart handles
  6. Anything on an airplane, such as seat pockets, tray tables and arm rests
  7. Money
  8. Magazines in offices
  9. Gas pump handles
  10. Elevator buttons
  11. Drinking fountains

With cold and flu season approaching, Blair also offers these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for when to wash your hands:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

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  1. This is very useful information. After recently spending over 5 months hospitalized for a staph infection, I learned the hard way how important it is to prevent infection in any way possible. My infection was injected into my spine which means the person handling the syringe and performing the procedure didn’t take care to prevent infection. I suffered a torture level of pain for weeks.

  2. Eleanor Mallory Gaddis September 28, 2017 at 1:16 pm · Reply

    I agree so many people take for granted that only washing their hands keeps germs away. WRONG!! I wipe door knobs, light switches, cupboards, counter tops, clean my floors all the time with Clorox in the water for tile floors, sinks, bath tubs, EVERYTHING!!! I hate germs and have a weak immune system so important to clean, clean, clean!!!!

  3. I would add cell phone to this list.

  4. Oh my god, folks, get a grip. Maybe we should just run around with our hands perpetually immersed in sanitizer. How did our species ever make it to overpopulating the planet?

  5. I would include any contact with a hospital, doctors office, rehab facility, health club, nursing home. I developed an infection while being cared for in a rehab facility. The infection entered my wound site and I developed a life threating sickness. The infection was MRSA. I had surgery to remove the infection and after 9 months I am still experiencing the painful effects of the infection. The IDPH discovered that the facility did not follow protocol to prevent the spread of infection from patient to patient. The physician on site did not check my wound during the 27 days of my occupancy.

  6. I have to agree with podeycat —- I think we’ve taken this whole “santitizer” thing to an insane level. Perhaps the reason that there’s such a high level of “infections” out there is because we’ve used SO MUCH SANITIZER that we’ve made ourselves vulnerable to the everyday germs that we used to be able to fight off. My mom used to say that every child needs to swallow a cup of dirt each year in order to live in this bug infested world and I think she was right!! How did those of us that are “over 50” grow up to be the age we are now?? We drank from hoses, shared each other’s ice cream cones, went to school when we were sneezing (OMG!!) and we still lived to tell the story!!! Everyone needs to take ONE PILL —- a CHILL PILL !!!! Let’s get back to living and stop worrying about who touched what last!

  7. A trick i use is to keep a paper towel or napkin in my pocket and use it to open up doors, grab handles, etc. Also, i buy from retailers like amazon, walmart special screen cleaning sanitizers and use them to clean my phones often. The exposure theory i dont agree with. As a child i was sick constantly. Only after taking
    the precautions like the ones mentioned in this article did my getting sick slow down.

About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.