Germs are everywhere. Of course, you know that toilets and dirty places or items are germ-ridden. But what of things we come in contact with every day? In some cases, that’s the source of infections, making germs spread unnoticed.
Consider Paul, who had common cold symptoms-coughing, runny nose, and sneezing. Within a few days, other members of Paul’s developed similar symptoms. Paul’s mom wondered how the infection spread since she took precautions to avoid direct contact with Paul during this period.
Well, she apparently overlooked everyday items that easily get contaminated and facilitate the spread of germs. Common cold is spread when persons touch surfaces contaminated with infected secretions.
According to a professor of microbiology, Charles Gerba, ‘people do not realize the amount of contamination they are exposed to going to work each day.’ Germs contaminate the hands as you sneeze, cough, or rub the eyes. You can easily touch any of these household items, unintentionally leaving thousands of germs on such surfaces.
Our hands touch these items several times frequently because they are inevitably linked to our day to day activities. Let’s consider 8 source of germs we can’t help but touch daily:
1. Phones: Although you are not likely to share your mobile phones with others, you should consider what your phone comes in contact with every day. Where do you keep your phones before and after calls? How clean is the pocket, purse, table and other places? Do you occasionally use the phone in the bathroom? If your answer is yes, you should take another look at the phone and endeavor to keep it free from germs by wiping it clean regularly. So, when’s the last time you cleaned your phone?
2. Door handles: Doors keep us safe by keeping unwanted persons out. However, they don’t prevent germs from coming indoors. Door handles may easily be contaminated after playing or working outdoors. Because everyone coming in has to use it, it may be a common source of infection. Do you know that some germs may remain on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours! Long enough to re-infect other.
You may have to wash your hands in the bathrooms, but what happens when you touch an unclean door handle after washing your hands? You would probably leave with more germs. So having a paper to open such doors is especially important when using public toilets.
3. Steering wheel: Do you know that the steering wheel may be dirtier than a public toilet? This was the outcome of a study by Dr. Ron Cutler in the UK. The steering wheel is something you grip (sometimes tightly) with both hands. You may do so on hot afternoons, with sweaty hands and if you have a cold, your hands may move back and forth from napkins, papers, towels to the steering wheel. So, you should wipe it clean from time to time.
4. TV remote: Like a lot of people, the TV remote may be one of the first things you touch when you get home. Or it could come when you want to relax after doing some work in the kitchen, washing, using the bathroom and been exposed to other potential sources of germs. In any case, how many people actually remember to clean the TV remote? Well, germs may easily spread as the remote is passed from one person to another.
5. Sponges: This everyday item is used to bathe, wash items such as dishes and clean surfaces. Without sponges, it will be pretty hard to ensure surfaces are thoroughly clean. Do you remember to wash the sponge after use? Doing so, may really reduce the spread of infection or keep it free of germs.
6. Money notes and Debit or Credit Cards: You may have to handle cash during transactions. Some of these banknotes and cards too may be grossly contaminated. One 2016 study shows that coins and notes made of smooth polymer surfaces are likely to have lower levels of bacteria. According to a 2013 study in the UK, some notes may carry more germs than the toilet seat! This may be higher in countries were poor attention is giving to personal hygiene.
7. Flasks, cups, and bottles: Like most people, you will have to drink water, coffee and other beverages today. While having a flask is worthwhile (because it makes water readily available), it is easy to re-use such flasks without washing them thoroughly. Giving attention to this could reduce the risk of infection too.
8. Books, magazines, and toys: Whether at home, school or work, you are likely to come across books and magazines that arouse your interest. Some of these may be sources of germs too. For children, taking the time to clean their toys regularly and storing them in clean, dry places could really reduce contact with germs.
In conclusion, to reduce the risk of infection from these items, try to clean these objects regularly and avoid sharing them if possible. However, while every attempt should be made to keep these everyday items clean and free from germs, the truth is, it is NOT possible to keep your home sterile all the time. That is why the single most important way of protecting yourself from germs is hand washing.
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Mkrtchyan HV, Russell CA, Wang N, Cutler RR (2013) Could Public Restrooms Be an Environment for Bacteria Resistomes? PLoS ONE 8(1): e54223.
Vriesekoop et al (2016). Dirty Money: A matter of Bacterial Survival, adherence and Toxicity. Microorganisms. 4(4). Pii:E42.