12 Places Germs Lurk
Public health experts tell WebMD about the 'dirty dozen' of places where germs love to hide.
Germy Place No. 4: Airplanes
The risk: When you have so many people in close quarters
for hours at a time, germs thrive, says Archibald. He tells WebMD upper
respiratory viruses and intestinal bacteria can spread easily during a flight.
In addition to the obvious risk of a neighbor with a bad cough, the surfaces
throughout the cabin and particularly in the lavatory can harbor germs.
Your defense: Moser and Archibald recommend disinfecting
your seat when you board. Wipe the arms, tray, and window with alcohol-based
antiseptic wipes. Use a hand sanitizer after visiting the lavatory, and if you
need to change your baby's diaper, disinfect the changing tray first. Moser
also suggests avoiding the lavatory on short flights, bringing your own
magazines, and staying hydrated to help protect against respiratory
Germy Place No. 5: Hotels and Motels
The risk: You may have heard that the bedspreads in hotels
are never washed, but don't worry. Archibald says these are not likely to
spread germs. Bigger concerns are bathrooms that have not been properly
cleaned, contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs or phones, and bed bugs living
in the mattress or headboard.
Linn Haramis, PhD, an entomologist with the Illinois Department of Public
Health, tells WebMD that bed bugs are becoming an increasing problem in many
areas of the country. He says they are not disease carriers, but "the bites
can cause allergic reactions, and the 'ick factor' is not something most people
are happy with."
Your defense: Ask the manager for a different room if the
bathroom doesn't seem clean, or if there are brownish-black spots along the
mattress seams or headboard -- bed bug excrement. Even if the room looks clean,
Moser recommends using a disinfectant spray on the phone, nightstand, bathroom
counters, and other surfaces you might touch with your hands.
Germy Place No. 6: Swimming Pools
The risk: The CDC has recorded an increase in recreational
water illnesses over the past decade. The most common problem is infectious diarrhea, which
can be caused by germs such as Giardia, Shigella,
Norovirus, E. coli, and Crypto, short for
Cryptosporidium. A pool is easily contaminated when someone with
diarrhea goes swimming, and chlorine doesn't always kill the germs immediately.
Crypto can survive for days even in a properly disinfected pool.
Your defense: The CDC offers these tips:
- Avoid swallowing pool water or getting it in your mouth.
- To protect others, don't swim when you have diarrhea.
- Shower before swimming.
- Wash your hands before returning to the pool after using the toilet or
changing a diaper.
- Don't let your child swim if he or she has diarrhea, and use rubber pants
for young children who are not potty trained.
Germy Place No. 7: Movie Theaters
The risk: Similar to an airplane, movie theaters draw many
people into close quarters for a couple of hours. Moser points out that viral
infections can be contagious a day before symptoms appear, so people with colds or
may go to the movies without knowing they are sick.
Your defense: Avoid touching your eyes or nose during the
movie and wash your hands after leaving the theater. To protect others, watch
movies at home when you are ill.