Popular Places Where Germs Lurk

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(Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

(CBS Radio) — For the most part, most Americans are germ-conscious and are aware of the steps they need to take to reduce the likelihood of contacting an illness.

Despite taking the proper precautions, many people still encounter germs on a daily basis — because truth be told, germs are everywhere.

Have you ever wondered where germs lurk? Check out the dirtiest places, objects and surfaces that you frequently come in contact with:

Restaurant Health Dangers

Going out to dinner may seem like a great idea to get out of having to cook, but going out to eat may contribute to you coming down with an illness. For starters, think of how many other people have touched the menu — and around half of those people did so without having clean hands. If you think this shouldn’t be taken seriously, thing again … the average menu contains 185K per sq/cm of coliforms, a harmful bacteria. To put this into perspective, a public toilet contains less coliforms than the average menu at a restaurant.

If you make it through glancing at the menu unscathed, chances are you will pick up some germs while touching the tabletop while dining out. Typically, most restaurant tables harbour more bacteria than your kitchen table at home because they are washed with dishtowels that are rarely disinfected. Furthermore, the person cleaning the table often goes table to table and uses the same dishcloth for each table. In other words, they merely spread the germs from table to table instead of actually cleaning the surface of the table.

If you miraculously make it through touching the table and the menu without coming in contact with a lot of germs, you still have two more obstacles: the soda fountain and lemon wedges. It is estimated that around half of all soda fountains found in the United States contain harmful bacteria. This is often blamed on the plastic tubing inside the machines. Most restaurants don’t bother to take the tubing apart and clean inside the machine.

Then there’s that lemon wedge … many people enjoy a lemon wedge with their soda or water, and adding a lemon wedge has been known to reduce the toxins found in your drinking water. However, when served at a restaurant, adding a lemon wedge usually means adding a plethora of bacteria to your beverage.

Hotel Health Dangers

Have you ever wondered how sanitary your hotel room is? It’s likely that while staying in a hotel room, you can be exposed to germs that cause the common cold. These germs tend to hang around on surfaces such as, the remote control, the desk, telephone, toilet, door knobs, light switches and bathroom counter tops. Additionally, while hotels are required to provide you with fresh linens during your stay, that normally does not apply to the bedspread/comforter. While the sheets are clean, most hotels do not wash the bedspread after every guest.

Your best defense against coming down with a cold or another illness after staying at a hotel is to disinfect the room upon arrival. Wiping down all surfaces with a disinfecting wipe will go a long way in preventing exposure to germs. Also, placing the remote control in a plastic bag for your use is another excellent way to prevent the spread of germs.

Grocery Store Health Dangers

In 2011, the University of Arizona conducted a study on shopping carts. Of the carts swabbed for the study, 72 percent tested positive for fecal bacteria … yes fecal bacteria! To put that number in perspective, there’s more fecal bacteria on shopping carts than in the average public bathroom. To reduce the likelihood of coming down with an illness after grocery shopping, it is best to use the antibacterial wipes that most grocery stores provide to wipe down the cart. If you have an infant or toddler, a cart cover can help protect them from falling ill.

Another grocery store health danger comes from handling meat. Statistically, packaged meat at the grocery store is loaded with bacteria, inside and out. While the meat is deemed “safe” to eat, as cooking the meat kills the bacteria, people should always wash their hands or use antibacterial gel whenever handling packaged meat.

Lastly, when checking out at the grocery store, or any store for that matter, be mindful of the germs lurking in your wallet — on your money. When you think about how many times the money in your wallet has changed hands, it’s easy to understand why just about every type of bacteria known to scientists can be found on paper money. Again, the best defense is to wash your hands after you handle money.

Everyday Health Dangers In Your Home

The kitchen can be one of the dirtiest places in your house, even more so than your bathroom. Germs lurk on your kitchen counter tops, especially after preparing meat or eggs. Furthermore, the average kitchen sink is host to about 500K of bacteria — per sq in. Always disinfect your entire kitchen after every meal, and after doing the dishes. Other germs can be found lurking on your kitchen sponge and in your refrigerator. Always throw away expired food to help reduce the bacteria found in your fridge, and wipe down the shelves often.

While your kitchen may be dirtier than your bathroom, your bathroom is no stranger to germs. Toxic germs can be found lurking in your bathtub, ironically the place where you go to get clean. Several studies have indicated that the germs found near the drain in your bathtub are more harmful to your health than the germs found in and around your toilet. To reduce the germs in your bathtub, disinfect the tub once or twice every week.

Another thing that people may not realize about their toilet is that you should always flush your toilet while the lid is closed. If your toothbrush happens to be anywhere within six feet of the toilet, the spray from the flush can actually reach your toothbrush. Enough said!

While it’s impossible to remove all germs from your environment, doing your best to keep things sanitary goes a long way in promoting health.

-QC Writer, CBS Radio

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