As the flu season settles over California, everyone has just one question: How can I avoid getting sick?
A flu shot is your best bet, but they may be getting hard to find. Hand-washing is always a good habit to practice, especially at this time of year. Much has been written about when and how to wash your hands, but have you given much thought to where germs are lurking?
Flu germs spread from person to person by way of coughing, sneezing or simply talking. That’s because droplets from an infected person get into the air and are inhaled by people nearby. Anyone within three feet can easily be infected. Flu germs are also spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. Flu germs can live for hours on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and tables.
Here are some surprising germ germinators you may not have thought about.
Ladies, where has your purse been? Most of us don’t think twice about setting our purse on the floor of a restaurant or bathroom stall or under our desk at work. The same germs that get on our shoes can be on the bottom of that designer bag. Have you ever cleaned the outside of your purse?
Don’t touch that elevator button! In an elevator, the first-floor button harbors the most germs because more people touch it than any other button. If you can, let someone else push it. If you’re alone, use your elbow instead of your finger to press the button.
Shopping carts are dangerous. Shopping carts pass from person to person quite quickly and the handles are prime culprits in the spread of germs. If your supermarket offers germ-killing towelette dispensers in the cart area, be sure to wipe the handle. And, never put fresh produce on the cart seat, where diaper-aged children often sit.
Use the first toilet. Research shows that most people use the middle stall in public bathrooms, so avoid those. More use means they’re the dirtiest and have the most germs.
Take care at the office. The office coffee pot is a prime location for germs. Always use your own coffee mug, and use a dishwasher when it’s time to clean it. Some research suggests that the typical office desk area has 400 times the amount of bacteria than the average toilet seat. The phone is the worst offender, followed by your desktop and computer keyboard.
Sharing pens and pencils also means you’re sharing germs. Make every effort to keep your own supplies and keep them out of your mouth.
Is someone sick at home? If someone at home already has the flu, make sure you wash your hands after touching things the sick person may have touched – dishes, towels, phones and even the television remote. If you have more than one bathroom, consider assigning one for use only by the person who is sick.
While there are many steps in preventing disease, perhaps the most important is to wash your hands frequently. And, stay home if you are ill. Even though attendance is important, your co-workers don’t want to catch the flu or whatever other bug you’re carrying. Additionally, you give your body a chance to rest and recover.
Marilyn Ranson is a public relations specialist with NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield, which is a member of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.