Confessions of a Germophobe: Exposing Germ Hideouts

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: March 23, 2011

Don’t be offended if I don’t shake your hand. If you are the insistent type, don’t be upset if I whip out the hand sanitizer immediately after our social interaction. It’s not that I think you don’t wash your hands. It’s just that I’m a bit sickened by the number of germs that could potentially be passed around by handshaking.

It’s been years since I’ve flushed a public toilet by hand. I am a foot-flusher by nature. On my way out of the bathroom, I hope you hold the door for me. If not, I always grab the doorknob with a paper towel after I wash my hands. Germs have been shown to survive on doorknobs and other solid surfaces for more than two hours! Streptococcus, staphylococcus, E.coli, shigella bacteria, hepatitis A virus and fecal bacteria? No, thank you. I can’t rely on other people to routinely wash and disinfect items that I use daily. Evidently, bathrooms should be the least of my worries though. They are disinfected more frequently than other everyday items, including grocery store shopping carts. That’s one of the reasons why I carry hand-wipes. You never know when you’ll need them.

Germs Lurk in Unexpected Places

The flu virus can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces. You may not expect germs and viruses to be lurking at the restaurant table:

  • Restaurant menus- Ever see anyone wash a menu? Me neither.
  • Lemons- In a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70% of lemon wedges on the rims of restaurant glasses contained disease-causing microbes. I’d opt out of the lemon-twist on your next cocktail or iced tea.
  • The dreaded ketchup bottle- See those fingerprints on the salt and pepper shaker? How about the mustard and ketchup bottles? Who knows what the last person who used it touched before using it.

Darn, maybe I should just eat at home… or should I?

Germs Invade the Home

Wiping down surfaces is a good step in avoiding germs, as long as you don’t use your kitchen sponge or dishcloth. As a germophobe, I look at them and instead of seeing these as common kitchen helpers, I see them as little petri dishes that breed bacteria! They can sit wet for days with bits of food on them, harboring thousands of bacteria per square inch. Use them to wipe down your countertop and then you could be spreading a rampant cold, flu or bacteria, with a Latin name, through your house very quickly. So, I opt for dishcloths so I can wash them every few days. If I must use the sponge, I clean them every 3 to 4 days and run it through my dishwasher or soak it in a 10% bleach/water solution.

Germs Love Public Places

Just because you can’t see them, cold and flu germs are not shy. They are not afraid to park themselves in public places where many people frequent. You may encounter them during the mere gesture of pushing a shopping cart! Researchers at the University of Arizona found fecal bacteria on 72% of carts and E.coli bacteria on 85% carts. Think of all those packages of raw meat and chicken people place in the bottom of their carts. And, the dirty diapered babies that sit in the seats. Do I use the antiseptic wipes stores now provide? You bet your poopy-diapered bottom I do!

As an additional precaution, I always bag my lettuce before dropping it in the cart. After leaving the grocery disease incubation store, I suggest getting in the car and driving far, far away! The only problem with that is, you’ll inevitably need to stop for gas. Think of all those hands that have touched the pump! That’s what my trusty alcohol-based hand sanitizer is for. Don’t think of your car as a safe escape either. Nobody ever thinks of cleaning their steering wheel.

What is a Germophobe to Do?

Most people wash their hands frequently throughout the day, but is it enough? When it comes to handshaking, Donald Trump doesn’t think so. “…you know, I am not a big fan of the handshake. I think it’s barbaric. They have medical reports all the time. Shaking hands, you catch colds, you catch the flu, you catch it, you catch all sorts of things. Who knows what you don’t catch?” Barbaric indeed.

If there’s one thing you’ve learned from me it’s that germs are everywhere. For those of you arguing in favor of germs, claiming they are necessary for survival, you may be surprised to learn, this germophobe agrees! We need bacteria and germs in our environment to remain healthy. It’s true that good germs outnumber the bad germs. But even if you’re not a germophobe, we can agree that nobody wants to get sick. Hygiene is only part of the equation. Building up an overall immunity to colds, flus and viruses is just as important. Maintaining an exercise regimen and eating a well-balanced, healthy diet are also factors of the equation. Nonetheless, that won’t stop me from scrub, scrub, scrubbing my hands constantly!

References

“Don’t Touch That! 8 Ways to Protect Yourself From Germs in Public Places.” AARP, 09 03 2011. Web. 23 Mar 2011. website

VanNest, Heather. “Carts one of dirtiest places in grocery store, study says.” Your Life Health. USA Today, 02 03 2011. Web. 23 Mar 2011. website

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