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12 Places Germs Lurk

Public health experts tell WebMD about the 'dirty dozen' of places where germs love to hide.

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 flu 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.

Germy Place No. 8: Day Care Centers

The risk: During a diaper change, children may get fecal matter on their hands and then touch a toy. When another child plays with the same toy and then sucks his or her thumb, infection can occur. This is called fecal-oral transmission, and Archibald says it's a common source of diarrheal illness in children. Since young kids love to put things in their mouths, shared toys can also become contaminated with saliva.

Your defense: Ensure your children are immunized appropriately and avoid sending them to day care when they are sick, Moser advises. In addition, make sure your day care provider washes children's hands after a diaper change.

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