The emergence of hand sanitizer dispensers as a part of our everyday lives is an indicator that public awareness of easily spread disease and infections has reached all-time highs. As unappealing as it may be, the reality of our world is that escalator railings, grocery carts and the handles of a gas pump are teeming with germs and bacteria. Viruses and bacteria are everywhere and people around the globe are taking heed in the dark shadow of H1N1, MRSA, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli O157, Campylobacter and Clostridium perfringens.
Some germs are a necessary part of life. There are about 200 species living in symbiosis on the human body and perform necessary duties such as eating dead skin cells. Humans have more bacterial cells on them than there are human cells. You cannot, however, live inside a plastic-wrapped bubble or remain house-bound, so it becomes prudent to take a few precautions and save yourself from unnecessary illness.
Take a few simple steps to reduce your exposure to Germs:
- Be a role model. Teach good hygiene practices in home and in school. Kids learn fast and will mimic hand hygiene habits, especially if a parent or teacher shows them the “why” and “how” they can successfully keep pesky germs at bay.
- Wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
- Teach children and adults to cover their mouths and avoid placing their fingers into their mouth or eye.
- To open the public bathroom door from the inside, grab a piece of paper towel, then dispose of it properly.
- Instead of using your hand to flush a public toilet, use your foot or a dispensable hand towel.
- Most grocers provide bleach wipes in the entrance; grab one on your way into the store. Wipe the handle and associated areas and then use another one on your hands.
- After visiting a public event where you shook a lot of hands, wash thoroughly before you leave the event. It’s easy to contaminate the steering wheel for the next driver.
- On the way home, keep your fingers out of your mouth and do not rub your weary eyes.
- Wash your fresh produce as if your family’s lives depended upon it. A friendly critter may have left a “gift” on the unwashed produce. Foreign pathogens often hitchhike into the produce aisle.
- If you favor a Jacuzzi, be sure it has been maintained properly. Upon exiting, take a cleansing soapy, rinse-off shower (Bleach cannot kill every pathogen).
- When you have a cold, frequently wash the phone, refrigerator handle, doorknobs and such. If someone near you sneeezes, leave the room till the air clears. Wash your hands frequently during the day. Keep some sanitary wipes in your wallet, school box or purse Antimicrobial lotions are good, but can be overused.
- Gas pump handles have been used by hundreds of good folks before you. Beware of department store escalator handles. The stainless counter at an inside fast food take-out can be highly contaminated. Grocery cart handles also harbor dangerous bacteria; mostly fecal matter. Beware of toilet flushing handles and lifting the seat. Beware of bathroom door handles. Turn on the water in a public toilet with a hand towel.
- When conventional hand washing is not possible, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer