Prevent Cold or Flu: 3 Public Places to Avoid

March 20, 2013
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public healthHidden bacteria are lurking all around us in places we commonly visit each and every day. Remember that young child you saw sneeze in Starbucks, who proceed to wipe her hands all over the counter? Yep, that’s how sickness spreads.

public healthHidden bacteria are lurking all around us in places we commonly visit each and every day. Remember that young child you saw sneeze in Starbucks, who proceed to wipe her hands all over the counter? Yep, that’s how sickness spreads.

We all know one of the smartest cold and flu prevention strategies is frequent hand washing, but taking steps to avoid germs is another important component to wellness. You don’t just catch a cold by going outside with a wet head – the viral and bacterial contamination of public surfaces is well known.  There’s a simple science behind the rhinovirus and influenza: those who come in close contact with germs are more to inhale them or infect themselves by touching the virus to their eyes and nose.

If you want to avoid catching a common cold or the flu, even this late in the season, be aware of these high-risk public places that are likely to make you sick:

Gas pumps

In terms of filthy public surfaces, gas pump handles are the top offender. In a recent study by Kimberly-Clark Professional, gas pumps were found to have the greatest instance of “highly-contamination levels” (an ATP of 300 or higher). Think about it: gas pumps are touched by hundreds — if not thousands–of different people each day and tend to build up with gas, oil, grease, and population residue as well. Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your car and make sure to wipe down after you fill up.

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Playgrounds

If you are parent to a young child, both indoor and outdoor playgrounds are zones to avoid keeping you and your child healthy this flu season. Although public restrooms get a bad wrap, at least they are cleaned every once and awhile! Playground equipment is rarely cleaned, meaning the jungle gym accumulates months of kiddie sniffles and sneezes. Indoor playgrounds are equally insidious: the enclosed quarters means germs do not “air out”, making it easier for viruses to breed. Rather than attempting to wipe down the swing set yourself, instruct your child not to touch her hands to her face, mouth, or nose while at the playground.

Escalator Handrails

Escalators are commonly found in high-traffic crowded areas, such as the workplace, public transportation building, and the mall. Research has found that 43% of escalators tested for high levels of germ contamination. When people cough or sneeze into their hand and then touch the escalator handrail, the virus is easily circulated to all other passerby’s. Try your best not to touch the handrails altogether. If you do need to grip, you can cover your hand with your sleeve or a glove. Otherwise, take the stairs! The extra exercise will help boost your immunity, making you less susceptible to cold and flu bugs.

When visiting public places, make sure to come prepared. Pack your bag with healthy snacks, hand sanitizer, and apply an antimicrobial nasal solution to help prevent cold and flu before you even walk out the door.