Last updated: March 12, 2020
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
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Contact with germs is inevitable, but you can lower your risk of infection by recognizing the 5 germiest thing you touch everyday (and how to avoid them).
Whether we like it or not, germs are all around us. In fact, about a trillion microorganisms live on your skin and make up 1 to 3% of your body’s mass. For a 200 lb adult, 2 to 6 lbs are pure bacteria.
While this may sound gross and dangerous, these microorganisms actually usually live in harmony with their human host. In fact, researchers are still not sure why some bacteria causes havoc and others are harmless.
While we can’t live in fear of germs, there is still good reason to avoid unnecessary exposure. While the average person is exposed to countless germs everyday, there are simple ways to minimize your risk of contracting viruses and bacteria. Check out our list of the five germiest things you come into contact with.
The Fast Food Kiosk
One of the major changes that came with the introduction of fast food was the notion that patrons would eat with their hands and not use dishes or cutlery. This is one way that fast food restaurants were able to save time and cost.
Eating with your hands can come at a cost to the customer when those hands are not clean.
Many fast food frequenters choose to save time by using the self serve kiosk. Unfortunately, a recent investigation conducted by UK newspaper Metro discovered traces of human feces of every McDonalds kiosk they sampled. They also discovered a range of bacteria including Staphylococcus, a contagious strain that can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.
Stay clean: Order your food from a human rather than a machine and avoid contact with extra germs. No matter which method you choose for ordering, choose to wash your hands before eating.
Raise your hand if you take your smartphone with you everywhere you go, including the bathroom.
Chances are, you choose to wash your hands after each time you touch a toilet handle, but what if we told you that your smartphone likely has 18 times more bacteria?
How often do you wash your hands after touching your cell phone? How often do you clean your phone? Chances are not often enough.
Stay clean: Wipe your phone with an antibacterial wipe daily. Avoid bringing your phone into the bathroom and be sure to wipe your phone immediately after if you do.
While money in your wallet sounds like a good thing, handling it means coming into contact with lots of undesirable germs.
Ever wonder what exactly is on the money you handle? A 2017 study tested one dollar bills in New York City and found hundreds of species of micro bacteria including microbes from mouths, vaginal bacteria and pet viruses.
Stay clean: Since warm and damp areas encourage the growth of bacteria, make sure to store your cash in dry and cool areas. Always wash your hands after handling money, especially if eating.
We know cash is dirty, but the solution to its germs is not to choose your debit or credit card instead.
While a debit or credit card allows you the convenience of not needing to have the right amount of cash on hand for your purchase, it often also means using a touchscreen to complete your purchase.
This is where you become exposed to the germs (and hygienic habits) of everyone who used the debit/credit machine before you. Touch screens usually have about 18 times more bacteria than a toilet handle and don’t offer an option to wash your hands.
Stay clean: Use the tap to pay for your purchases when available. Carry a stylust in your purse or wallet to complete purchases using a touchscreen. If you must use your hands, be sure to wash them or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible.
After all this talk of touch screens you probably know to avoid the self checkout at your local grocery store, but what about the shopping cart handle?
A study by the University of Arizona sampled shopping carts on the US west coast and found that the shopping cart handles had more bacteria per square inch than a public restroom.
Considering the fact that most trips to the grocery store involve you handling fresh produce, money and even a touchscreen, it can be an incredibly germy process.
How to avoid: Luckily, many grocery stores offer antibacterial wipes to clean your cart before you start shopping. They are often found just outside the store entrance. If your local store does not offer this, you can always simply carry your own wipes.
Feeling Sick? Connect With Us!
While no one wants to get sick, avoiding the spreading unnecessary germs is also high on the priority list. That is why at Your Doctors Online we connect you with real North American doctors from the comfort of home. When you are feeling ill you need to rest, not spend hours in a waiting room needlessly. Connect with us first.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Richard Honaker M.D.
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