Looking For Germs In All The Right Places—And The Less Obvious Ones

Person's extended finger pushing a button in an elevator

Most of us can think of some hot spots for germs such as public bathrooms and are in the habit of responding with good hand hygiene. But some places that harbor germs may not be as obvious. As we head into cold, flu, and COVID-19 season, let’s take a look at just a few locations where germs may be hiding in plain sight.

Some hot spots for germs where extra hand hygiene may be called for

Gas pumps, hotel TV remotes, and other self-serve buttons

Even though we are all more aware of germs on surfaces and restaurants and retail establishments clean more often than before the pandemic, handles and buttons still test high for a variety of germs. They are easy to forget about during quick transactions and it’s a good idea to assume that they may have been overlooked by others as well. Carry some hand disinfectant with you to use after contact and if possible, wipe the surface with disinfectant before you touch it. Some develop the habit of pushing buttons with their knuckle instead.

Purses, wallets, and phones

We take our wallets and phones with us most everywhere we go, and we can forget that where we put them or what we put in them can be full of germs. The bottom of purses is a common way those germs get a free ride, as are the contents of our wallets. Be aware and intentional about where you put these items down and wipe their contents with disinfectant on a regular basis. Try to remember everything you touched today immediately before you touched your phone. Most of us cannot even remember how many times we picked our phone up in one day, so frequent handwashing and sanitization is key.

Rails, door handles, and elevator buttons

Frequently touched surfaces such as handrails and door handles are likely suspects for germs, so disinfecting your hands after touching them is always wise. While these surfaces are frequently cleaned in our medical center, you cannot assume other locations take infection prevention as seriously.

Shopping carts

Noticing places that many hands have touched is a good way to avoid germs, and this is one you may have already thought of. Swab the handle with a disinfectant wipe before grabbing hold. Stores now provide these wipes, but you cannot rely on others to use them.

Office break rooms

Coming to work when you are sick is a surefire way to share germs. But just because no one is coughing or sneezing in the next cubicle doesn’t mean that those germs aren’t hanging around. For our last look at sometimes forgotten hiding places for germs, let’s peek into the break room. Notice any spots where many hands have touched? The buttons on the microwave and the handles on the coffee pot, sink, and refrigerator are good guesses. And by now, you know the drill.

Wash your hands often

Even if you take steps to avoid coming into contact with germs, chances are you will encounter some. One of your best defenses against getting sick is regular hand washing. Wash your hands often, using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds to clean away viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing germs. And for those times when you can’t readily wash your hands, have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer rub with you to use.

You can also reduce your risk of getting sick when you encounter germs by getting vaccinated at an upcoming flu and COVID-19 booster clinic. Ask your provider if you are up to date on all recommended vaccines against other diseases, such as HPV and shingles.

This fall, Cheshire Medical Center is hosting Flu Shot Clinics, available for established primary care patients.