5 Places Nasty Germs Hide

By: Tywanna Hamilton, CRNP

Where are germs? Everywhere. The bacteria and viruses that can make you sick can be found on many surfaces at home, work and in public places. Learn about five places germs like to hide and what you can do to keep them at bay.

1. Your House
Home may be where the heart is, but it’s also where a lot of germs hang out. In your kitchen, for example, raw foods can contaminate kitchen surfaces with bacteria such as listeria and salmonella. And in the bathroom, E. coli and fecal bacteria can contaminate the toilet seat, doorknobs, sink – even your toothbrush!

Clean isn’t the same as germ-free. Take these steps to kill viruses and bacteria lurking in your home:

  • Clean kitchens – including the sink — and bathrooms regularly with bleach or disinfectant sprays. Don’t forget appliances and items you handle regularly, such as salt and pepper shakers.
  • After handling raw foods, wash cutting boards and knives with soap and hot water.
  • Clean your bed sheets once a week in hot water, as well as your bath and kitchen hand towels.
  • Close your toilet lid when you flush to prevent tiny bits of fecal matter (poop) from landing on bathroom surfaces, such as your toothbrush.

2. Public Bathrooms
In public restrooms, you should assume every surface carries germs. The main risk of infection comes not from sitting on the toilet but from touching the seat, stall door or sink with your hands and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Your best defense is washing your hands after using a public toilet. Try not to touch contaminated surfaces as you’re leaving ‒ use a clean paper towel to open the door.

3. Your Workplace
You may touch many surfaces at work each day, including tools, phones, desks, door knobs and computer keyboards. If different people use the same equipment, the risk of spreading germs skyrockets.

Each day, try to disinfect your workspace and office equipment with alcohol wipes or a disinfectant spray. If you use a spray, don’t wipe it off. Let it dry for maximum effect.

4. Schools

Put a bunch of kids together and you get ‒ germs. Kids in the same classroom often pass around cold and flu viruses, and sometimes they’re not careful about washing their hands after using the bathroom.

To prevent school-borne bugs from visiting your home, teach kids why it’s important to wash hands after using the bathroom or before eating meals, and show them how to do it properly.

5. Your Doctor’s Office
Medical offices make cleanliness a priority, but when you go to an appointment, you are often in the company of sick people who are sitting in the same chairs and reading the same magazines.

Your defense: Try to avoid touching doorknobs or other surfaces, and wash your hands/use hand sanitizer afterward. When taking your child to the pediatrician, bring toys and books from home. If you don’t see your health care provider wash their hands before your exam, it’s okay to ask them to do so.

Your secret weapon against germs
Doctors and health officials agree: The No. 1 weapon against germs is washing your hands with soap and water for 60 seconds. Doing it often and well will go a long way to help you stay well this winter.

Tywanna Hamilton, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Prairie View A&M University. Ms. Hamilton is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. She serves patients in MPCP’s Arundel Mills office.