- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
The Truth about Germs and How to Protect Yourself
Everyone has heard of germs, but many people don't know where they are and how to protect themselves. Germs are the invisible enemy because we can't see them unless we are looking at them under a microscope. Even though we can't see them, it doesn't mean they aren't there. Germs are everywhere whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. The more we know about what to look for, the better we can protect ourselves and our families against their dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences.
First off, by definition, germs are microorganisms that are disease-producing. Germs aren't our friends; they are the enemy, and if we won't take the necessary precautions, they can make our lives difficult and painful. Prevention is always better than treatment. If you can prevent yourself from the contamination of germs in the first place you will be better off. How? The answer is much simpler then you might think. First, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating and after using the bathroom. This is simple and has been taught to children since they could walk and talk. Yet this simple concept is lost on many people who either forget to wash their hands or simply think they are way too strong and powerful to become ill from germs. The truth is that no one is immune. It doesn't matter how well your immune system works and how healthy you are, anyone can get sick from germs if they are not careful.
If you can't wash your hands, always keep hand sanitizer in your purse or pocket or some type of antibacterial wipes like Wet Ones. These are your best friend and you should never leave the house without them. Keep some in your car too, just remember to put them in the glove compartment so they don't get ruined by the heater in the winter and the sun in the summer. Cleaning your hands is the most important step to prevent getting sick from germs because your hands transport the germs to your eyes, nose, and mouth and this is how the infection gets into your body. If you hands are clean, they can't make you sick.
The best place to start protecting yourself against germs is in your own home. It doesn't matter how clean you think your home is, chances are that you are forgetting to clean the very places that are going to make you the most sick. Your kitchen is probably the dirtiest place in your home. This is the place where you prepare and handle raw meat, vegetables, and other foods that can be dangerous before they are properly cooked. Always keep antibacterial wipes on hand such as Clorox to wipe your counters, sink, and facets. Clean your microwave on the outside with antibacterial wipes as well. Do you remember the last time you cleaned your microwave door? Probably not. When people are cleaning, this is usually the last place anyone thinks has a lot of germs. But if there are a few people in your family that use that microwave, you can bet that someone didn't wash their hands before using it and if you don't clean it you are getting their germs on your hands right before you eat. Gross, right?
Light switches in your house are places most people don't clean, but they are one of the dirtiest places. Think about it, you're coming home from the store and of course you have many germs on your hands from everything you touched and now you are touching your light switches. Door knobs in your home are also very dirty and need to be cleaned with antibacterial wipes. A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands right when you get home from anywhere and just use your elbow to switch the light on without touching it.
Also remember to use antibacterial wipes to clean your remote controls. If many people in your family are using them, they are most likely to have many germs on them because there is no guarantee that everyone has washed their hands promptly. Don't take a chance on your health and clean these at least once a week. Another good idea is to have everybody remove shoes after entering your home by the doorway. There are numerous germs on our shoes that can make anyone who plays on the floor, such as children, sick. Use these tips to keep your home safe and your family healthy.
Now our homes are clean, but our fight against germs is not even close to being done. If we stayed in our homes and never left, we might be safe but that is not the reality. Most of us have to leave our homes to live productive lives and go to school, work, and even pleasant outings like restaurants, vacations, friend and family homes, and shopping. The first place to avoid germs might be the most unpleasant to think about because it's the restaurants we eat at. Now, this can largely vary by the type of restaurant you are going to and the quality and price of its food. The nicer and pricier restaurants also tend to be cleaner. The first thing to look out for when going out to eat is the menu. Menus are very dirty. Do you know how many different people touch them everyday? I don't. But I definitely don't want to eat after having all those germs on my hands from them.
The key here is to look at the menu, choose your meal, order your food, and give your menu back to the waiter. Then, sanitize or wash your hands before your meal comes so that you get rid of all those menu germs. I'm big on people watching, and when I'm sitting in a restaurant and looking around, about 99% of people don't wash or sanitize their hands before eating. This means that if you don't clean your hands after handling that menu, it's disturbing to think how many germs you are getting on your hands. And what happens if your meal is finger food like fries or chicken fingers? Then those dirty germs from the menu are going straight into your mouth. It's really better to be safe then sorry when dealing with this one.
The next thing to know about eating in restaurants is to never order ice with your drinks. Why? Because ice machines are very dirty and rarely cleaned and when there isn't a scoop for the ice, waiters in a rush will usually just put your drink in the ice and scoop it with them. That means everyone's germs from their glasses are in that ice. Just skip the ice, it makes drinks taste watery anyway and it will keep you safe from germs. The next thing is to never order lemons in your water or drink. This is because they are rarely washed or handled with clean hands. Washing fruits and vegetables is an important step to take before eating them, but restaurants are busy places and washing the vegetables is not their first priority. Bad news for you, this means all those germs are going in your drink and into your body. It's better to avoid this one then be sorry later. Lucky for me, I'm not a big fan of ice or lemons so this is an easy one for me to avoid.
The holiday season is a time of travel for many people. This can mean staying in a motel or hotel which is a very dirty place to be. If you never thought to clean your light switches, door knobs, or remote controls, do you really think hotels do? Probably not. I like to take antibacterial wipes with me to hotels and wipe everything down before I touch it. I don't know who has been using it before me and what germs they have. The general rule is that bed sheets and pillow cases are washed and replaced after every guest, but the top blanket is not. If you are germ conscious like myself, you might want to bring your own blanket just to be on the safe side. It's unpleasant to think about how many people have used that blanket before me and whether they were clean or not. This is an easy way to get infected with skin infections or even head lice. Another thing to avoid in hotels is towels. They are supposed to be replaced after each guest, but how can you really be sure? I like to bring my own towels. It really isn't a big deal to pack a few extra towels from home. You really have to make the judgment call yourself when you are traveling alone or with family.
Another common place germs are every day is the place you shop. That's right, your favorite store is the home to many types of germs because many different people shop there and most of them don't wash their hands. I really dislike trying on clothes in the changing rooms at the stores before buying them. For the most part, I usually know my sizes in the brands I buy so I usually play it by ear. This is because I don't like to try on things that have been worn by other people before washing them. I usually buy clothes on the internet and then wash them before wearing them. I recommend for you to know your sizes too so that you can avoid this time wasting and germ infested activity. The thing to think about here is that the items you touched have probably been touched by other people too. A good rule of thumb is not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when you're shopping because all the germs from everything you touched is now on your hands.
The dirtiest place in the store is the checkout counter. The credit card machines are filthy because they are rarely, if ever, cleaned. I used to work in a store and I never once saw these machines being cleaned. Next is the pen attached to the machine. If the machine hasn't ever been cleaned, you can bet the pen hasn't been either. Next, is the issue of actual money. Money switches hands fairly quickly and you never know what you're getting. Generally, paper money has less germs then coins because paper doesn't absorb germs and transfer them as well as metal does. This is why door knobs are so dirty, because they are metal and absorb germs and transfer them very well. A good thing to do is to use hand sanitizer after checking out at the store. Or, if it's the winter season, sometimes I just keep my gloves on throughout my shopping trip. Sometimes if you're lucky, the store will have a hand sanitizer machine on the way out if you forgot to bring your own.
Some other things to clean:
- your keys
- credit cards
- kitchen sponges and dishrags
- your car
- outside of washer and dryer
- cell phone
- computer keyboards
Remember to use these tips to keep yourself and your family safe every day. Most of these tips are simple and quick to do but can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. The most important thing you can do to be safe from germs is to wash your hands often with soap and water and use hand sanitizer. We use our hands for everything so we must be sure they are clean!
Dirty hotel rooms: Hidden camera shows what really gets cleaned
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