The Germiest Places in the Mall
Of course we're not going to stop shopping anytime soon...but as the survivor of a staph infection, I thought you might want to be aware of where the germs lurk (I was shocked about #6!!!) and follow the tips for keeping yourself in the safe-zone!
Flu viruses, e. coli, staph...anywhere that people gather is filled with bacteria and viruses. Health.com is out with a list of the eight places to look out for when shopping at the mall. And tips for keeping yourself in the clear.
1. Restrooms: Bacteria, including E. coli, fester on the faucet and handles because people touch those surfaces right after using the toilet. The sink is a moist environment, so bacteria can survive longer there. Watch out for soap dispensers, too.
Tip: Wash your hands thoroughly after using a public restroom. That means lathering with soap for at least 20 seconds, then rinsing well.
2. Food court tables: Even if you see the table being wiped down, that doesn't mean it's clean. The rags themselves can actually spread harmful bacteria like E. coli if they aren't changed and washed regularly.
Tip: Bring your own disinfecting wipes and swipe the table before you sit down. Look for wipes that contain alcohol or another disinfecting agent to make sure you're killing the germs, not just wiping away the grime.
3. Escalator handrails: E. coli, urine, mucus, feces, and blood have all been found on some escalator handrails, according to tests. And where there is mucus, there could also be cold and flu viruses. People cough into their hands, then touch the rails.
Tip: Avoid touching handrails altogether. But if you have to, give yourself a generous squirt of hand sanitizer immediately afterwards.
4. ATM keypads: Researchers have found that each key can contain an average of 1200 germs, including illness-inducing microbes. The worst key of all? the 'enter' button, because everyone has to touch it.
Tip: Use your knuckles on the buttons to avoid getting germs on your fingertips, which are more likely to touch your nose and mouth than your knuckles. And be sure to wash your hands or use sanitizer afterward.
5. Toy stores: Toy stores can be even germier than play areas and carousels. Kids lick toys, roll them on their heads, and rub them on their faces. Then they get put back on the shelves for your kids to find them.
Tip: If you purchase a toy, wipe down anything that isn't in a sealed box or package with soap and water, alcohol, or vinegar before giving it to your child.
6. Fitting rooms: It's not the hooks, or even the chairs. The germ culprit is what you try on. After people try on clothing, skin cells and perspiration can accumulate on the inside and cause bacterial growth. You can even pick up antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like MRSA, just by trying on clothes.
Tip: Always wear full-coverage underwear (no thongs!) when trying on clothes, especially pants and bathing suits.
7. Gadget shops: While you're playing around on that new smartphone, you could be picking up germs from the thousand people who tested it out before you. Even though most stores clean their equipment, they usually don't clean after each use. Viruses easily transfer between glass surfaces (think iPad or smartphone faces) and fingertips. A recent report found that out of four iPads swabbed in two Apple stores in NYC, one contained the most common cause of staph infections...and cold and flu germs.
Tip: Before you try out the latest gadget, wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe. And use hand sanitizer after you're done.
8. Makeup samples: Between 67 and 100% of makeup-counter testers are contaminated with bacteria, including staph, strep, and E. coli. This shows that someone who may be sick or who just went to the bathroom didn't wash their hands and then stuck their finger in the sample.
Tip: Avoid using public makeup samples to apply cosmetics to your lips , eyes, or face. Ask for a single-use sample (where you open it, try it, and throw it away). If that's not available, use a tissue to wipe off the sample and then apply it to the back of your hand.
And my personal favorite advice...avoid, as much as humanly possible, touching your eyes, nose, mouth or ears with your hands.