January 21, 2020


Everyone knows that cold and flu season is in full swing, and not likely to slow down until spring - germs are everywhere. If you’ve had a flu shot, are eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, you’re already primed to fight germs off. But they’re waiting to ambush you when you least expect it. Knowing where they tend to accumulate can help you develop a strategy to avoid them and keep youself and your family happy and healthy.

At Work

The office kitchen — It may get a nightly cleaning, or it may not. We often don’t know who is responsible for cleaning communal spaces at work, or how thoroughly they are actually cleaned. Sponges and cleaning rags are notorious for actually SPREEADING germs not eliminating them. If the housekeeping crew is using the same cleaning equipment in every communal area, then germs accumulate in the cleaning materials and every time a new surface is wiped… they may end up spreading germs from one area to another.

And those large coffee makers that never really get dry are perfect environments for growing bacteria. If you prepare food in the community kitchen, it’s best to never set your food directly on the counter, avoid using the sponge that everyone else uses, and consider bringing your own coffee mug and utensils.

Your workspace — You might feel safe within your own cubicle walls, away from everyone else’s germs, but you’re probably not as clean as you think. In fact, your desktop, phone, and keyboard may be home to more germs than a toilet seat.  

Think about it: you carry germs into your workspace all day long on your hands. Germs from the bathroom, the kitchen, and the door handles that everyone in the building touches. You also probably eat, cough, and sneeze at your desk. Then there’s your phone. If you make frequent calls, your handset may be the dirtiest surface in your workspace, collecting germs from your hands and from its proximity to your mouth throughout the day.

And don’t forget the pen you chew on!

Office equipment — The printer, copier, water fountains, and vending machines are also popular places for employees and their germs to gather that might not get wiped clean as often as necessary.

Now that your office is beginning to sound like an obstacle course of germs, you can plan ahead to avoid the worst of it. Avoid what you can, wipe with vinegar, and wash your hands frequently.

Out and About

Restaurants — Just like your office, the places that people frequently touch in restaurants are sources of germs. Tabletops, seat backs, salt and pepper shakers, and condiment bottles may be handled by dozens of customers daily. Tabletops may get wiped down with a sanitizing solution after every use, but the rest probably do not. But the dirtiest of all may be the menu. Plastic menus pass through many hands throughout the day and are rarely wiped down - ick. If there’s a raging cold of flu going around in your geographic area, consider washing your hands after ordering, before touching your food.

Touch screens or keypads— Touchscreen systems are the norm absolutely everywhere from bowling alley scoring to fast food ordering kiosks and credit card pay units. Recent research has turned up some shocking news about public touchscreen systems: they’re covered in bacteria. Not so shocking when you think about it. If you must use one, wash your hands as soon as possible afterwards. 

Shopping  / out and about— It’s hard to avoid other people while shopping or moving around in public buildings, but you can avoid the germs left behind by those when went before you. When shopping remember that many stores offer sanitizing wipes in the cart area so you can wipe down the shopping cart handle before you begin. Cold and flu season is also a very good time to avoid food samples in the store; you never know who has coughed or sneezed near the samples.  When you’re moving around in public buildings, remember that everyone grabs the doors in virtually the same spot, pushes the elevator buttons and pays their bills by pressing the buttons on the credit card machines.  These are all prime spaces for germs to collect.

We have a few little tips for you that will help you dodge many of the very common germy places that you frequently touch:

  • If you have to touch public door handles, washroom door locks or drawer handles, just pull your sleeve over your hand and open / lock the door or pull the drawer open. it’s not perfect, but at least those germs aren’t necessarily getting on your hand; and
  • If you have to push elevator/screen/keypad buttons, use you knuckle instead of your fingertip. The germs might get on your knuckles, but they won’t be on your fingertips which you often inadvertently use to touch your mouth nose or your food. 

It’s not possible to avoid every germ this winter but preparing yourself to face them can help keep you healthier. A healthy lifestyle is your first defense against illness, but avoiding germs runs a close second. And for all those situations you just can’t avoid, frequent handwashing and sanitizing can help keep the germs from breaking down your defenses. Here’s to a healthy 2020!

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