Seven Things You May Not Realize Are Full of Germs

Do you pride yourself on being clean and relatively germ-free? We hate to burst your bubble, but you may not be as immaculate as you think. We’re not saying you’re Pig Pen, just that you should probably sanitize after you pat yourself on the back.

Carly Hinkle, a registered nurse with Memorial Medical Center’s Infection Prevention department, said it’s “very easy” to pick up an unwanted bacteria or virus by touching any number of everyday objects — handrails, door handles, elevator buttons and more.

And consider these culprits:

  1. The Office Microwave. Go take a look at yours. Do you see specks of food? Germs. Do you see zero specks of food? There are still germs. Multiple people use the office microwave daily. All it takes is one press of the button after an ill coworker and you’ve picked up an unwanted virus. To protect yourself, wipe the microwave down regularly with disinfectant and wash your hands after using it and before eating.
  2. Your Desk. Studies have shown desktops have more bacteria living on them than your average toilet bowl (primarily because toilet bowls are cleaned more often). “Your mouse and your keyboards are usually pretty germy,” Hinkle said. “We’re always shedding skin cells and are constantly touching them. Keyboards are very dirty.” Our recommendation? Apply disinfectant spray at least once per week.
  3. Public Drinking Fountains. These should simply be avoided, especially if the spout appears “gunky” and is in a warm area or gets a lot of sun exposure; this is a haven for bacteria. Pack your own water in a reusable bottle instead.
  4. Restaurant Menus. Cold and flu viruses can survive for days on hard surfaces, and menus are filled with all sorts of gunk that can easily get you sick (oftentimes, they aren’t sanitized between uses). Wash your hands after ordering or avoid the printed menus altogether by scanning the online menu ahead of time.
  5. Shopping Carts. These are notoriously filthy. Think of all the hands that touch them throughout the day. Most grocery stores provide sanitization wipes near the cart corrals at the store entrance to clean off the cart; use them.
  6. Paper. The paper we touch can contain germs, especially papers we set on table tops, desks and other dirty surfaces. To be safe, wash your hands after filing or handling paperwork.
  7. Phones. Cell phones have been cultured for all sorts of germs, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Wipe your phone clean frequently with sanitizing wipes, UV light cleaners, rubbing alcohol on a soft tissue, or microfiber cleaning cloths.

The life of a germ depends on its kind, but for instance, the flu virus can stay on a surface for up to seven days and MRSA for up to five months.

“It’s quite a long time — people don’t think of it like that,” Hinkle said.

Her advice? Wash your hands often (it’s your best defense!), wipe down surfaces with a bleach and water solution, stay home if you are sick, sneeze or cough into an elbow or tissue, and carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you.

Did you recently pick up a bug thanks to germs? Learn more about Memorial ExpressCare. No appointment is necessary!

Other sources for this post: HealthWatchMD.com and The List Maker’s Get-Healthy Guide.