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How to Guard Against Picking Up Cold or Flu Germs

by Sara Correnti, Manager, Health & Welfare Member Wellness Products
Office workers using Telehealth

Where Are Germs Hiding?

Wash your hands, cover your mouth when coughing, sneeze into your elbow … all things  we know help reduce the spread of germs. We do them (or try really hard), and yet we still get sick. What’s the deal?

There are many places germs are brewing — places we interact with regularly. Some places are so routine  we often forget how germ-ridden they could be. For instance:

  • Bathroom handles – Whether it’s the stall lock, the flush handle, or the facet handles, bathrooms can be loaded with all kinds of germs. Wash your hands after every visit (even if you just pop in to change your clothes). Have your paper towel ready and use your elbow to turn off faucets to avoid using your hands.
  • Elevator buttons – It’s a small and quick act, but that glowing button could be housing more germs than you can imagine. If you’ve recently taken a ride in one, make sure you wash your hands before you eat or touch your face.
  • Cell phone – We take them everywhere with us, and they pick up bacteria like souvenirs. We then hold them in our hands and near our face, setting up the perfect germ transition play. Once a week, or more often during the height of flu season, clean your phone with a trusted cleaner or antibacterial wipe you feel comfortable with.
  • Steering wheel – Think about it … you go to the grocery store and handle money, you do yard work and more. In sickness and health, you touch your steering wheel nearly every day. But when is the last time you gave it some TLC and wiped it clean? One 2011 Consumer Reports article quoted over 700 bacteria were found per 10-square centimeters on car surfaces like driver-side seat, floor mats, gear shift and steering wheel. This is in comparison to the average 80 bacteria found on public toilets.
  • Keys – They, too, are everywhere. We lay them on any surface and don’t think much if they drop on the ground. They rustle around in the bottom of our bags and yet we don’t think much of holding them and then grabbing something to eat. The bacteria those keys hold easily pass to your hands as you carry them around. Try to pack away your keys before washing your hands, leaving them less likely to be the key to a dose of germs.
  • Keyboard and mouse – Even when we’re sick, we still work (sometimes even when we shouldn’t) and spread our germs all over our workstations. Believe it or not, even when we’re not sniffling or coughing, we’re still depositing germs that we pick up from everywhere … germs that could be making us sick. Consider a brief wipe down every week during cold and flu season to keep those germs from brewing and getting into your system.

All this to say germs are everywhere. While the goal is not to encourage everyone to wipe every surface with antibacterial spray or wrap themselves in hygienic bubble wrap, it could be helpful having an awareness about these germ sources. Don’t feel pressured to add them to your weekly (or even daily) cleaning schedule. But rather, remember to wash your hands (once every 1-2 hours) and treat your body well with rest and nutrition to decrease your chances of cold and flu this fall.