How to Protect Yourself Against the 5 Dirtiest Things You Touch Every Day

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Money. Cell phones. Computer keyboards. Light switches and doorknobs. Toilet seats. These likely are the 5 dirtiest things you touch every day. And, you probably don’t think twice about touching them. But they carry bacteria—and lots of it. What’s your best defense against a world of germs?

Search the Internet and you’ll find many lists of things we own or touch every day that are laden with germs. The following five are common to just about every list you’ll find.

Money

The Wright Patterson Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, analyzed 68 old, worn dollar bills and found only four were relatively free of bacteria. But while the study shows dollars carry bacteria, it didn’t find out whether money can actually spread bacteria.

Cell Phones

You probably wouldn’t think your cell phone has more bacteria than a toilet seat, but there’s research to back that up. Researchers in the United Kingdom found cell phones are a breeding ground for bacteria because of the warmth their batteries generate, your warm fingers touching them, and the fact that they’re kept in warm places like pockets.

Light Switches and Doorknobs

If you’re the last one to leave a room in a public area, you might want to use a wipe to turn off the light switch instead of your bare fingers. Like cell phones, light switches have warmth that breeds bacteria—217 bacteria per square inch, according to one estimate. Ditto for doorknobs—they’re not cleaned frequently and not everyone washes their hands before touching them.

Toilet Seats

Yes, they contain bacteria—295 bacteria per square inch—but there’s no evidence you can contract a disease from merely sitting on a public toilet. To cause a problem, viruses need to contact your mucous membranes or enter your body through a cut or sore on the skin. Plus, many organisms can survive in the air for just a short time.

Computer Keyboards

Computers make it easier to do almost anything—paying bills, communicating with friends, doing schoolwork—and putting germs at your fingertips. A British consumer group looked at 33 keyboards and four of them were considered to be a health hazard while another had germs at levels five times the level of germs on a toilet seat.

How to Protect Yourself

As these examples show, germs are everywhere, but do they really pose that much of a threat? Our natural barrier to invading germs—the skin—keeps bacteria at bay unless they can find their way in through the mucous membranes or a break in the skin.

The best approach, is to wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. So the next time you’re in a public restroom, using a computer in a hotel lobby, or turning out the lights in a meeting room, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water. It’s your best defense against the world of germs.

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Andrea L. Stern, MD

Andrea L. Stern, MD, is a physician with LG Health Physicians Mount Joy Family Medicine and has expertise in the full spectrum of family medicine.

Education: Medical School—Boston University; Internship and Residency—Lancaster General Hospital.

Call: 717-653-2929

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.

 

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