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Be proactive in germ hotspots

Friday, 01 February 2013 16:31

A quick trip to the grocery store, filling up with gas, working out at the gym and doing laundry – all everyday activities – but ones that can make you and your loved ones sick.

By keeping these germ hotspots on your radar you can help keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. Washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home when you're sick are three basic techniques to slow the spread of germs. Using sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer can make your illness prevention even more effective, especially in germ hotspots -- places where germs tend to congregate and spread.

Brian Bechtol, a physician assistant at Urgent Care of Mountain View, lists some germ hotspots and how to prevent the spread of disease-causing viruses and bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli.

Kitchens can harbor germs that can make you and your loved ones sick.Your home

Germs can congregate on many everyday home surfaces, such as remotes, door handles, light switches and countertops. Make sure to wipe down hard surfaces frequently with a disinfectant.

Dirty laundry can also be a haven for germs. Using hot water and bleach when washing bedclothes, undergarments and towels can make a difference.

In the kitchen, run sponges through the dishwasher or microwave them for one to two minutes to kill germs, and never use a sponge to wipe surfaces contaminated by meat. Sinks should be cleaned with bleach once a week, and dish rags and towels should be changed out and laundered with bleach daily. Cutting boards should always be washed thoroughly between uses and you should have a separate board for meats.

In the bathroom, always flush with the lid down and color code towels so each family member has his or her own to help keep germs from spreading between them. Toothbrushes should be sanitized in the dishwasher weekly.

Choosing a liquid hand soap instead of a bar soap can also cut down on the spread of germs.

Many women place their purses on countertops and tables when they arrive home. Those same purses are taken into businesses, placed on floors and in shopping carts. When they’re put on a counter or table at home, they can spread the germs they’ve come into contact with elsewhere.

Public restrooms

While it may seem like a given that some public restrooms are germ harbors, many people do not practice careful hand washing, even in public places.

“The single most important thing you can do to stop the spread of germs and keep healthy is frequent hand washing,” said Bechtol.

The gym

Gyms generally keep equipment clean, but if you're hopping on the treadmill right after someone else, it never hurts to use a sanitizing wipe or spray, which most facilities keep readily available.

Shopping

Always try to use a sanitizing wipe before touching a grocery cart. Many stores offer these at the entrance, usually next to where you pick up your cart. Once you're done shopping, use a hand sanitizer to kill germs you may have picked up from the cart, shelves or items in the store.

Railings, while keeping you safe on an escalator or the stairs, have been touched by countless others, and can collect an array of germs. Use a hand sanitizer whenever possible after touching these surfaces. Same goes for benches, drinking fountains and door handles. Some malls have even started providing hand sanitizer for their guests.

At work

Desks, phones and keyboards and accessories can quickly become germ magnets. Use a sanitizing wipe on them frequently and make sure to wash your hands whenever possible. When you’re sick, cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or, in a pinch, use the bend of your elbow.

Need to fill up with gas on your way home? If you carry sanitizing wipes with you, wipe down the pump handle and buttons. After filling your tank, use hand sanitizer.

“There are so many ‘bugs’ going around right now causing upper respiratory and gastrointestinal infections,” Bechtol said. “It is especially important to practice good hygiene and preventive care.”

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