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12 Places Germs Lurk

Public health experts tell WebMD about the 'dirty dozen' of places where germs love to hide.
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Germy Place No. 3: Your Workplace

The risk: Phones, desks, and computer keyboards are germ magnets, according to a study by University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD. The study, funded by the Clorox Company, suggests surfaces used by teachers, accountants, and bankers are the germiest.

Your defense: Moser recommends disinfecting your workspace yourself, particularly if you share your desk, computer, or phone with other employees. One option is to coat surfaces with a disinfectant spray, "but don't wipe it off. You have to let it dry."

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 illnesses.

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.

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