Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    12 Places Germs Lurk

    Public health experts tell WebMD about the 'dirty dozen' of places where germs love to hide.
    By Sherry Rauh
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Think about all the places you visit in a typical week: your office, your favorite restaurant, your child's school. Do you ever look around and worry your surroundings are less than sparkling clean?

    Rod Moser, PA, PhD, does. In his WebMDblog, the veteran primary care physician assistant lists 12 places where poor hygiene could give germs a leg up. For a closer look at this "dirty dozen," WebMD asked public health officials to discuss the risks in each place, along with strategies for protecting yourself and your family.

    Recommended Related to Health A-Z

    Castleman Disease

    Maybe you've been having an odd sense lately of fullness in your chest or belly. Perhaps you're a little short of breath or not as hungry as usual. Lots of things can cause you to feel this way, and it's easy to shrug off vague symptoms like that. But make sure you check with your doctor. These are also among the signs of Castleman disease. It's a rare condition that happens when too many cells start to grow in your lymph nodes -- small organs that filter bacteria, viruses, and other harmful things...

    Read the Castleman Disease article > >

    Germy Place No. 1: Public Bathrooms

    The risk: "It's prudent to assume virtually any surface in a public restroom carries germs," says Craig Conover, MD, MPH, medical director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. These germs may include intestinal bacteria, such as E. coli and Enterococcus, which cause diarrhea. The main risk of infection comes not from sitting on the toilet, but from touching the seat, stall door or sink with your hands and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth -- the usual points of entry for common germs.

    Your defense: "If you want to leave with clean hands," Conover advises, "wash your hands for the proper amount of time -- 15 to 20 seconds -- and avoid touching contaminated surfaces afterward." If the sink is not motion-activated, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet so you won't contaminate the hands you just washed.

    Lennox K. Archibald, MD, hospital epidemiologist for Shands HealthCare affiliated with the University of Florida, tells WebMD healthy people are not likely to get sick from a public bathroom if they "wash their hands properly with soap and water." He adds that the elderly, people undergoing chemotherapy, and anyone with a compromised immune system should be especially diligent about hand washing. This includes children.

    Germy Place No. 2: Restaurants

    The risk: We've all seen the signs requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom, but who's checking up on this? Improperly washed hands can easily taint food with fecal matter, introducing infectious bacteria or viruses.

    Raw foods can also expose you to a wide range of bacteria, including Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter, Archibald says. Even ordering your food well done is not a guarantee against exposure. If a kitchen worker handles raw foods and then touches your dinner plate or freshly baked rolls, he can contaminate your cooked food.

    Your defense: "Choose which restaurants you patronize," Conover says. Check with your local government for inspection results or look for the inspection certificate on site. In addition, avoid raw or undercooked foods. Always order your hamburger well done and send it back if it's pink in the middle.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    acupuncture needle on shoulder
    10 tips to look and feel good.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    woman biting a big ice cube
    Habits that wreck your teeth.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.