Regular hand washing is important for preventing the spread of germs that can cause colds, flu, and other infections. We all know to wash our hands before eating, following a sneeze, and after using the restroom. However, there are several everyday items that can carry germs, and it is helpful to remember to wash your hands after touching these items. To stay healthy and decrease your risk of coming down with an illness, wash your hands after touching these common objects.
11. Grocery Cart Handles
The handles you grasp to push your grocery cart through the market are touched by many people each day. They are exposed to germs carried by people after handling fresh produce and packages of raw meat. Your cart may have been pushed down the aisles by someone after using the restroom, when suffering from a cold or flu, or while sneezing. Many stores provide sanitizing wipes near the cart corral at the front of the store. Give your cart handle a wipedown before use, and remember to wash your hands following a trip to the grocery store.
10. Door Handles and Elevator Buttons
Door knobs, door handles, and elevator buttons are high-touch items used by many people over the course of a day. This makes them susceptible to receiving germs carried on the hands of those who use them. Wash your hands after navigating office buildings, hospitals, or shopping centers. These are places where you are touching door handles and handrails used by a large number of people. The Journal of Infectious Diseases reports that flu viruses can last for 24-48 hours on materials such as plastic or stainless steel and be transferred to your hands.
9. Restaurant Menus
Restaurant workers are generally quick to clean off tables between diners. However, restaurant menus are often overlooked when it comes to keeping the restaurant clean and sanitary. Plastic-coated restaurant menus may harbor live cold or flu viruses for 24 to 48 hours. AARP suggests that when dining out, avoid contact between your menu and your dishes or silverware. Additionally, take the time to wash your hands with warm water and soap after placing your order and returning your menu to the server.
8. Paper Money
Dollar bills can remain in circulation for years. Your cash probably has a rich history of traveling from person to person. Like other items handled by many people, money can carry germs that can be transferred to your hands. A study in the journal Applied and Environmental Biology found that the flu virus can live on paper money as long as 17 days. You may not want to think about the germs on paper bills used by persons who have not washed their hands following restroom use. Be sure to give your hands a good washing following any money transactions.
7. Shared Pens
Communal pens, such as those found in office buildings, the post office, or grocery store checkout areas can also harbor illness-causing germs. Avoid using shared pens by carrying your own in your purse or pocket. If you must use a communal pen, be sure to wash your hands afterwards, as germs can live on the hard surface of objects like pens and pencils. For proper handwashing, the CDC advises lathering your hands with soap and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds to kill germs before rinsing.
6. Pets or Other Animals
It is important to wash your hands after petting animals, including your own pets. Animals can pick up microbes and germs from time spent outdoors. Even the sweetest of pets may enjoy rolling around in stinky and unmentionable deposits found in the park or on neighborhood walks. Not to mention the objects they are willing to sniff or lick with their tongues. Animals may also enjoy rooting through trash cans and exposing themselves to all sorts of disgusting and germ-ridden items. Keep yourself healthy by washing your hands after petting or holding animals.
5. Touch Screens
Germs may also reside on the touch screens found in places like public libraries, doctor’s offices, and store checkout counters. Many places of business now allow you to insert your credit card to make a payment, then use the touch screen to add a tip and sign the receipt with your fingertip. Wash your hands with soap and water following the use of communal touch screens. After washing your hands, be sure to dry them thoroughly with a paper towel, as germs thrive in moisture.
4. Kitchen Sponges
The very sponge you use to clean your kitchen may be harboring germs and spreading them each time you use it. The Michigan State University Extension has found that the best way to sanitize your kitchen sponge is by running it through the dishwasher. Use the heated drying cycle to kill off all the bacteria on the sponge. Meanwhile, remember to use proper hand washing procedures in your kitchen. Wash your hands after handling meat, chopping fresh vegetables, or touching raw poultry. Additionally, wash your hands after wiping down your kitchen sink and countertops.
3. Soap Dispensers
If you think about it, you may realize that the very dispensers used to deliver the soap needed for good hand washing can carry germs from unwashed hands. Refillable soap dispensers may harbor germs transferred there during the hand washing process. Be sure to lather your hands for at least 20 seconds to kill off any germs. Singing the happy birthday song under your breath can help you to gauge when the 20 seconds are up. Additionally, when cleaning your bathroom, don’t forget to give your soap dispenser and pump handle a cleaning as well.
2. Your Doctor’s Waiting Room
It stands to reason that your doctor’s office waiting room may harbor germs from sick patients. Be sure to wash your hands after touching any items in the waiting room and exam room. Don’t forget that the armrests are spots that may carry germs from previous patients. Other high-touch items in a doctor’s office include magazines, door handles, and the pen at the sign-in desk. If you visit the doctor’s office with small children, be sure to wash their hands if they handle waiting room toys or books.
1. Airport Objects
When traveling, beware of the germs that may reside in the airport and airplane cabin. Wash your hands after handling TSA bins, using a drinking fountain, and resting in armchairs. Once on the airplane, be sure to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer before eating. Hot spots for germs in the airplane cabin include the tray tables, air vent controls, and bathrooms. In addition to washing your hands, staying hydrated is a good way to prevent illness following a flight.