Dining & Shopping Germy Hot Spots & Tips on Staying Well

80% of disease is caught by direct or indirect contact – either interacting with a person who carries germs or touching a surface where those organisms live.
Philip Tierno, PhD director of clinical microbiology at New York University Medical School

Germs come from us and places used or visited by lots of people will have a lot of microbes.  Restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores are no exception. Since germs can live on surfaces from hours to months, they can be transferred from person-to-person or surface-to-surface.

Many of these encounters can be mitigated with simple safeguards.

Let’s review your typical day with tips to help avoid germs.

RESTAURANTS.  Think about what everybody touches at a restaurant – the menu!  Charles Gerba, microbiologist at University of Arizona found an average of 185,000 bacteria on menus in a test of restaurants in three states.  That’s about 100x more bacteria on that menu than on a typical toilet seat in the restroom.

In coffee shops?  The coffee bar area (with the cream pitchers) is touched by many hands throughout the day.  Again, where there are many people, there are many germs.

Tips:

  • After ordering your food from the menu, excuse yourself to wash your hands.
  • Or carry hand sanitizer for a quick clean before eating.
  • In coffee shops, never set your coffee lid on the counter while adding milk or sweeteners.  Place your lid on a napkin and toss the napkin when done.
  • Use hand sanitizer when done.

GROCERY STORES.  Who knew that half of shopping cart handles have E. coli? Plus, a host of other bacteria and viruses?  These germs come from shoppers’ hands, babies’ diapers, or other items placed in the cart.

Another hotspot: touchscreens at checkout.  Gerba states “that a disturbing 50% of checkout touchscreens sampled had fecal bacteria.” Some even had MRSA, a bacteria that is resistant to many types of antibiotics.  He goes on to state: “There are actually more antibiotic–resistant bacteria on these screens than in a hospital.”

Last, reusable fabric bags may pose another risk, because germs can hitch a ride from the store into your home.

Tips:

  • Use the store-provided sanitizing wipes to clean the cart handles.
  • Carry your handbag over your shoulder instead of placing in the cart.
  • Sanitize your hands after touching the checkout screens.
  • When you get home, wash hands with soap before putting items away.
  • Place reusable bags on the floor rather than the kitchen counter while unloading.
  • Wash your fabric bags with hot water and/or bleach.

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