What’s the germiest stuff you touch every day?

Kimberly-Clark Professional examined everyday objects to see which were the most germy. Then  Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona analyzed their data. Here’s what they learned:

From station KOLD in Tucson:

“They found nearly three-quarters of gas pump handles are highly contaminated with the kinds of germs that can make us sick.

Next on the list, the handle on that mailbox where you drop off your letters and packages.

What you pick up there could send you to the doctor.

The study found 68% of the handles were contaminated.

Here’s one we’ve told you about before.

Vile germs are riding nearly half of escalator rails tested.

What about ATM’s?

You could withdraw more than money the next time you hit the buttons on an ATM.

They were just a bit less icky than escalator rails.

Next on the list, parking meters or kiosks.

And the next time you buy a snack from a vending machine, you’ll definitely want to wash your hands before you eat it.

The study found 35% of vending machine buttons were crawling with germs.

That is tied with the crosswalk buttons we push when we want to cross the street.”

I usually use my knuckles on crosswalks, ATMs and vending machines, but you have to use your hand to open the big mailbox and to pick up the gas pump. I usually keep hannitizer in my car and didn’t have it there the other night after I pumped and I was totally grossed out.

In a related story, a university professor and mother of four has been banned from local McDonald’s for her study of germs on the playground.

From The AP:

“CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona State University instructor and mother of four received a hand-delivered letter from a lawyer prohibiting her from setting foot in eight Phoenix-area McDonald’s and threatening her with criminal trespassing charges if she did.”

“Chandler resident Erin Carr-Jordan has been on a national crusade to clean up fast-food play areas, claiming the pathogens she found in them threaten children’s health.”

“Carr-Jordan tells The Arizona Republic ( http://bit.ly/s9T4Gb ) the incident she believes led to the lawyer’s letter happened during one of her repeated visits to a Gilbert McDonald’s. Carr-Jordan alleges she discovered antibiotic-resistant Staph or MRSA, known to cause potentially life-threatening infections in the restaurant’s PlayPlace.”

(Read the link – it’s a crazy full story from The Arizona Republic!)

So do you clean your hands after pumping gas or going to the vending machine? Do you think about germs being on the escalator handle, ATM button or mailbox? Do you wash your hands after using these?

What do you think of the mom/scientist being banned from McDonald’s for telling patrons what she found? Does the MRSA make your worry more about restaurant playgrounds?

59 comments Add your comment

william s todd

October 27th, 2011
3:48 am

just some stupid bitch wanting her 15 minutes. also i have a question for her where did she get her medical license from?

maggi

October 27th, 2011
5:27 am

Wash your hands

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
6:16 am

I was at Kroger yesterday and looking at the pretty apples. A nice produce man was chatting with me, as he was placing some apples on the counter and straightened them. He told me he had 20 minutes until he was off and that he was looking forward to two days off. He also said he had had a cold for the past several days and felt sick. I backed away from the apples and did not buy any. Was that paranoid?

I always think of the germs on on the escalator at the airport. I try to pull my sleeve down when I hold it. I also wonder about the drinking fountains. As children, we used them regularly but now not so much.

Many hotels have a special sanitary cover for the TV remote controls as this is apparently covered with germs from one guest to another. I rarely watch TV in the hotel but it is good to know they are being proactive. What about keyboards for the kids at school or on the hotel lobby computers?

I do not use an ATM an usually put my mail in my own mailbox, so those things do not concern me but I can see where others would be exposed to germs.

A neighbor tells me that she uses her LEFT hand when she touches a keypad as she is right handed and then she will not likely touch her face later with the germ hand, in case she does not get a chance to wash it.

FYI lots of germs can linger in the PLAY DO in the classroom…we rotated ours each week, when I taught Kinder.

It IS amazing how we managed to survive 20 years ago with NO hand sanitizer! HAHA!

Honest Abe

October 27th, 2011
6:52 am

Science is beginning to show that the over-use of hand sanitizers and germ-killing soaps is more bad than good. We have immune systems that develop in response to the normal exposure to germs. When we over-sanitize, we impede that development. This is particularly true for children. The paranoia of so many people today is absurd. I am clean and well groomed, but I don’t use hand sanitizers every time I touch something another has touched. When we are out to eat with other couples’, they often insistently push the ubiquitous sanitizers our way and seem shocked when I politely decline. I played in the dirt when I was a kid, walked in the woods, went to public bathrooms etc. I got sick like everyone, but now I am rarely ill. We immunized our kids but otherwise rely upon nature to allow their immune system to develop.

iRun

October 27th, 2011
6:55 am

Nope. I don’t use hand sanitizer. I wash my hands after using the bathroom and before I cook and when they look/feel dirty. I realize some of you will immediately categorize me as disgusting but I truly don’t care.

But otherwise? I expose my immune system to all the icks. And I rarely get sick. The most common illness I get is tonsillitis, about once every other year.

Maybe I’ve got this wrong, but if you don’t allow your immune system to fight germs then how does it build immunity? Doesn’t living in a germ-reduced environment, don’t kid yourself that your actions make you germ-free, actually weaken your immune system?

catlady

October 27th, 2011
6:55 am

MJG, but your mailbox lid has been touched by your postman, who has touched hundreds of other mailboxes who were touched by their owners…..

I am around many sick kids all day. Almost every day this year I have been presented with a vomiting kid coming off the school bus! You would not believe what parents send to school! Then there are the kids who come up and get right on me to tell me they are about to throw up, or they cough or sneeze right in my face. Mama gives them a Tylenol and sends them on, then doesn’t answer the phone if the nurse calls. I am fortunate to be currently suffering from only my first cold of the year.

iRun

October 27th, 2011
6:57 am

Oh, and I don’t run to the doc for antibiotics every time I get tonsillitis (or strep, almost same thing). My body clears the infection on it’s own in about 3-5 days.

catlady

October 27th, 2011
6:59 am

The one spot in the school that I won’t touch is the button on the hand washing kiosk by the boy’s bathroom!

thewindwhistler

October 27th, 2011
7:08 am

That is an outstanding question. I I really like it. I try to wash my hands after touching all the heretofore mentioned items. Sometimes I do forget. I am immune to almost everything . I can see a child that as yet to develop immunities reall getting some ghastly germs. MY favorite no no is not touching the handle to the door leading out of the bathroom. I wash my hands then use the paper towel to open the door. Another favorite place to find a plethora of germs is the food salad bar where the patrons all use the same utensils I will go to the Y today, that is a big favorite for every conceivable germ . I swim thereand they check the water regularly but I have seen some “dudes’ in there that look like a walking incubator for germs, and ofcourse, the really obese women, you just know they have germs. No offence now, just being honest.

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
7:14 am

@ catlady…you are right about the mailbox! Guess it is too early for me…lol.

I too am surrounded by oodles of kids with germs and typically my immune system is strong, since I am in so many different school environments….9 this week! BUT sometimes I get knocked straight on my butt and that is no fun.

I head straight to the Doctor if I think I have strep. I do not have tonsils. My voice is my living and if I lose it, I will be unemployed. I had an infection in my larynx once and that WAS NOT FUN.

If you try to ride strep out, do you stay home for 2-3 weeks? I find it to be very contagious among children and would not dream of it myself. This would put me out of work for quite a while, can most folks afford that? If you go to work you will be sharing your strep…right? If you take an antibiotic, you are not contagious after 24 hours. I have been in schools way to long and seen how things can run rampant in the classroom!

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
7:16 am

Really obese women have germs…gee I learn something new on this blog every day!
Should they be banned from the Y…maybe they are trying not to remain obese?

shaggy

October 27th, 2011
7:18 am

I practically never have a cold, flu, ebola, plague, etc… Why? I grew up outside a lot. I got dirty a lot. I was exposed to the environment a lot. If I have a pesky case of ebola, it usually lasts just a day or two, and I wipe the blood out of my eyes and move on. I have the immunity system of an M1-A1 Abrams tank, built over time, on a hardened steel chasis. Those germs are like itty bitty firecrackers banging on sheet metal.

Like any good machine, I keep it oiled with plenty of beer and vitamin C. I love large quantities of beer and grapefruit juice…separately of course. Plus, Bloody Marys just reek of vitamin C, and vodka. I like them a lot…only for the old immune system. Of course, the vodka is evil, so I self flagellate myself to drive the sin out, but it comes back, usually on Sunday morning…with a celery stick and fresh ground pepper. On the up, non-sin side, I am as healthy as a race horse, healthy enough to camp, climb mountains, walk long distances in extreme environments, and carry my own beer or vodka. I have lead climbs up some seriously inclined real estate, where I had to leave the beer and vodka behind until I got back. I have always managed to get back.
Guess I will just have to accept the good with the bad and enjoy life. Tough row to hoe, huh?

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
7:18 am

In fairness, this grosses me out:

Guys , who come to the pool in old tennis shoes that have probably never been washed. Something about feet coming out of musty shoes and getting in the pool is yucky, to me. Probably silly on my part but I am being honest here.

iRun

October 27th, 2011
7:21 am

MJG – I clear strep/tonsillitis in about 3-5 days. Without antibiotics. I stay home in bed sucking down hot and sour soup while it feels it’s worst and then once I’m good I telework another day or two. Return to work as soon as I feel normal. Less than a week.

If I worked with patients or children I would not expose them.

But I clear a strep infection fast because I haven’t treated it with antibiotics in almost 20 years. My immune system is well-trained on strep.

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
7:34 am

@ iRun…I am not a medical professional. I actually looked it up, after reading your comment:

Within 3 days after exposure to the germ that causes strep’s painful sore throat, you may get sick. Once infected with strep, you are contagious for up to 2 to 3 weeks, even without symptoms. However, taking antibiotics you will no longer spread the bacteria to others after about 24 hours.

It would be hard for me to stay home for even one week solid but maybe you can. There are always errands to run.

Having been in schools for most of my life, I see how kids come back to school and spread what they still have….then the cycle continues for months. Some kids get strep several times each schoolyear!

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
7:35 am

Wondering…can you feel normal and still be contagious…does anyone here know?

Jeff

October 27th, 2011
7:36 am

I have zero fear of germs. I rarely get sick. I’ve been a runner for 20 years now, and without any scientific proof, running seems to keep my chest and throat clear of gunk. I once went 8 years without even a cold.

Sticking on point, the worst place for germs that I’ve been? I had to replace a mirror in the dressing room of one of Atlanta’s numerous adult pole-dancing clubs. Let’s just say the ick factor was pretty high, as were most of the girls. Despite the intrigue, it is NOT an attractive place.

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
7:39 am

Let’s give Jeff the prize and move to a new topic!

shaggy

October 27th, 2011
7:42 am

MJG,

Perhaps you should do your own blog, where you get to set the topic.

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
7:46 am

@ shaggy…I was joking…this is where facial expressions can be a problem as we do not see them here…sorry! FYI…I do get to set my own topic most every day, as I talk for a living. I typically have fun with it!

I am happy I do not have to come up with a topic for this blog every day. Tip my hat to TWG.

Marsh

October 27th, 2011
7:46 am

Honest Abe is correct. This extreme overreation to “germs” and abusing antibiotics is what’s going to allow a superbug to wipe us all out. Cut it out already.

mom2boys

October 27th, 2011
7:59 am

iRun…how do you know you have strep if you don’t go to the doctor and get tested? Often a virus mimics the symptoms of strep, so there’s no way to know for sure unless you have a throat culture.

MomOf2Girls

October 27th, 2011
8:04 am

@mjg – yes, you can feel normal and still be contagious. In fact, many people are carriers of some nasty bugs without ever having symptoms. One of my daughter’s friends is like this with strep, and it’s always a crap shoot as to whether or not my strep-prone daughter will end up with it.

@iRun – while I do prefer to ride some things out without antibiotics, strep is not one of them. As @MJG said, you can be contagious for weeks afterwards, and while your fab immune system is keeping you healthy, you are probably spreading the love all over the place. And one of the people you infect could be immunocompromised. Also, untreated strep can turn into rheumatic fever, a far nastier disease with long-term consequences.

On topic – I don’t go out of my way to avoid most of these, but I will use a paper towel to open public bathroom doors.

BaBaBinx

October 27th, 2011
8:05 am

Jeff-That is awesome! I can only imagine.

IRun – I envy you, because my once a month strep/tonsillitis was never that easy. And yes, I seriously had it that often back a few years ago. After having an ENT monitor me for six months, I got those suckers out and have barely been sick since.

I am not crazy about hand sanitizing all day, but I do wash my hands religiously and do tend to use sanitized after pumping gas and after picking up my child from pre-school. I check him in and out on a computer.

The sad thing is that a lot of people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. It amazes me to hear of the guys I work with who don’t!!! Gross!

shaggy

October 27th, 2011
8:09 am

BaBaBinx,

“The sad thing is that a lot of people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. It amazes me to hear of the guys I work with who don’t!!! Gross!”

This is the talk of your office???? That must be a wonderful, and engaging workplace.

Figment

October 27th, 2011
8:11 am

I don’t really worry about this. Like iRun said, I wash my hands. We need exposure to germs to keep our immune system working correctly.

BaBaBinx

October 27th, 2011
8:12 am

Shaggy, yes it is!

Seems to have touched a nerve with you?!? Maybe you are one of those guys? :)

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
8:17 am

I read this quite a while back ( about the Braves baseball game… see the 4th paragraph from the bottom) and just looked it up again:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-09-17-hands-survey_N.htm

mystery poster

October 27th, 2011
8:34 am

I don’t worry about this, either. I think people have become WAY too fanatical about it. Like iRun, I haven’t been on an antibiotic in years, probably when I had my wisdom teeth out 10 years ago.

Maybe we should all just put our kids in plastic bubbles….

DB

October 27th, 2011
8:38 am

I just don’t think much about germs — I figure they have been here forever, and will be here long after I am gone. I just try to stay healthy, wash my hands at the usual times, and don’t freak out about other people touching things. And I never use hand sanitizers – I have very sensitive, dry skin and they absolutely rip my skin up. THAT’S gross! The only thing I’m even a little particular about is my phone at work. After someone else has used it and left, I’ll discretely use a sani-wipe on the handset. One day, when the receptionist at work was sick and we sent her home, I watched the phones for a while – after she left, the first thing I did was wipe the phone down!

Getting freaked out because a mailman touched my mailbox is not on my bucket list. :-) Next thing you know, people are going to start freaking out because other people touched their LETTERS. There’s no end in sight. MJG, if you hadn’t talked to the guy at the grocery store, you would have just bought the apples, brought them home, washed them, and enjoyed them. Sometimes, ignorance IS bliss!

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
8:52 am

@ DB…you are exactly right about the man at the grocery. I was thinking the ignorance thing myself, as I walked along the other aisles. I was actually thinking of eating an apple on ON THE WAY HOME and I had a bottle of water in my car to rinse but, after the chat, passed on that idea.

I hate being flat on my butt when I am sick and since I am contracted, there is NO sick pay nor reimbursement for expenses such as airline tickets, if I do not show up to speak.

TallMom

October 27th, 2011
9:13 am

After working with children for 20 yrs, I’m pretty sure I’ve had every cold virus/stomach bug known to man. I RARELY get sick anymore. I wash my hands regularly, but I don’t use antibacterial soap nor do I use hand sanitizers. I do believe those have contributed to the rapid rise in “super germs”. The only illness I’m susceptible to anymore is strep throat. OH my GAWD…I get SO sick with it when I get it. Thankfully, it only happens every few years.

For awhile there, every time we went to Whole Foods, a few days later, one of my kids would get Roseola! It was bizarre that it kept happening. I finally started wiping down the shopping cart with a regular baby wipe and it never happened again. It was so strange.

iRun

October 27th, 2011
9:16 am

@MJG – say what you want but I’ve been operating this way for 20 years and I’m pretty sure I never infected anyone.

.......

October 27th, 2011
9:21 am

an Occupy Atlanta participant.

motherjanegoose

October 27th, 2011
9:22 am

@ iRun…haha…you must be brilliant. I have NO idea who I have infected over the past 20 years ( when I had a virus, strep throat or flu) , I run into way too many people.

Many times, kids come to school and have NO idea they had strep throat until it has been passed around the class.

I had GUTTATE PSORIASIS once and it stymied many health care professionals, as I had been to the doctor several times with the rash. I finally went to the dermatologist, It was manifested because I had strep throat that was not detected and then it flared into my skin. No fun! No telling whom I was in contact with over those few weeks, before it was detected! I felt awful.

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/guttate_psoriasis/article_em.htm

K's mom

October 27th, 2011
9:23 am

I have a 17 month old and I am shocked by the degermification moms…handsanitizer everywhere. I wash my hands after using the restroom and before cooking. When my little guy was an infant I washed my hands before each feeding. He has been sick only twice in 17 months and the second time the ear infection was questionable. I do not hose him down after the park and I do not use a shopping cart cover or sanitizer on it. I had a man chew me out one day for putting my child in a dirty shopping cart…I politely told him to mind his own business.

I am with everyone saying we need to let our immune systems do their jobs!

iRun

October 27th, 2011
9:28 am

Oh, and I assume it’s strep because of all the gross pus in my throat. But you’re right – strep is only diagnosed via culture.

TallMom

October 27th, 2011
9:37 am

The only problem with not treating strep is that it can cause renal failure, heart damage and temporary but severe arthritis (and by temporary, I mean it can last up to 18 months). It can also cause streptococcal toxic shock syndrome–which is very serious and will require hospitalization.

Antibiotics don’t shorten or lessen strep throat, they just help with it being spread and to prevent serious complications. While I certainly won’t take antibiotics for just any old illness, strep I definitely will.

Oh…and I also find hot & sour soup to wonderful when I have a painfully sore throat!!!

JOD

October 27th, 2011
9:56 am

I use hand sanitizer after pumping gas until I get home and wash my hands. Probably a germ fest, but I always seem to get gas on my hands, too. I also wash after touching money – always have since my mom was/is big on it and it makes my hands feel greasy. Other than that, as others have mentioned, when dirty, cooking, potty, etc.

I’m surprised the study didn’t mention keyboards, mice, and elevator buttons, since those are always in germ studies.

I wipe things down with bleach wipe every once in awhile, particularly if one of us has been sick: remotes, light switches/plates, door knobs, etc.

@iRun or TallMom – Do you have a recipe? I really only get sinus infections and bronchitis, but the sore thoat there is a killer. I’m fighting bronchitis now and haven’t slept well with the cough…

iRun

October 27th, 2011
10:43 am

@MJG – I don’t work with kids. Regular office job, with teleworking allowed. I’m pretty sure I haven’t infected anyone because the people I am around have not become ill. It’s not like I have transient relationships – work and home – I see the same people day in and day out.

I live with 2 people – husband and child. I’ve never made them sick.

@TallMom – I am aware of all that about strep.

Here’s the thing. I get the sore throat with all the pus and feel like death for 2 days. By day 3 I am back to 50% and by day 5 I am 100%. I don’t think I stay contagious for the typical time and I don’t think those more dangerous things are very likely to happen. They’re not likely to happen in any untreated strep, just possible.

I just think my immune system has strep’s number and once it shows up it clears it out, and I mean really clears it out, very well.

@JOD – I don’t cook my own. At least not when I am sick. Don’t usually feel like cooking! I get it from the Golden Buddha on Clairmont.

JJ

October 27th, 2011
10:46 am

I don’t touch escalator rails, stair reals, etc.

The most disgusting thing I can think of right now, are the buggies at Walmart, Target. Publix, etc. Those things are so gross…I use the wipes they provide to wipe down the handles….Nasty, nasty, nasty.

But in answer to the question, the germiest place I go is definately Walmart. I feel like I need a shower after I go to their stores…..

RJ

October 27th, 2011
10:59 am

Germ-x and the likes are fine if NOTHING else is available, but the best way to wash your hands is with soap and water. Hand sanitzer does not completely clean your hands regardless of the claims on the bottle. I hate germs but they are a part of life. I wash constantly, open doors with paper towels and teach my kids to do the same. I think I’ve created a monster out of my daughter, my son still couldn’t care less.

Hey, JJ...

October 27th, 2011
11:07 am

…what gives – last year (and the year before) you said you never went to Walmart, only to Target?!?!??!?

lakerat

October 27th, 2011
11:11 am

I try not to touch restroom door handles, either entering or leaving – nor do I touch faucet handles or paper towel dispensers with my hands, either before or after I wash my hands – those are basically phobias, though I do look at the “hand wipe” dispensers at Kroger and Publix and think about using them, and sometimes I do, but I am not the germopohobic in those stores, just restrooms – and I will not drink out of ANY public water fountain, and surely will not drink out of one that is outside a restroom!!!!

iRun

October 27th, 2011
11:46 am

@lakerat – after running 20 miles throughout the city of Atlanta on a nice June day you WILL drink out of the water fountain on PATH at the corner of Highland and Freedom. You will. You ran out of the stuff in your hydration pack about 5 miles ago and you have 5 more to go.

lakerat

October 27th, 2011
12:06 pm

Not me, iRun – after three knee replacements I don’t have to do that running stuff anymore (though I sure wish I could)! In my younger days I probably would do as you suggest (though I have never run 20 miles in my life), but now, there is no way I drink out of any public fountain, though I might hold a cup under one to be filled (as long as it is not outside a public restroom).

JOD

October 27th, 2011
12:43 pm

@iRun – Well, that makes sense doesn’t it? Duh :o) Maybe I’m in the mood for Chinese tonight, then hopefully sleep.

Razz

October 27th, 2011
2:03 pm

This may seem gross to most but I barely ever wash my hands except after using the restroom. Not even before I eat and I deal with cash all day. But I NEVER get sick…EVER…even when my husband had the “swine” flu a couple years ago, he was sick for nearly a month and I never even got the sniffles…

Lisa

October 27th, 2011
3:13 pm

I totally recommend getting a bacterminator cover for your phone! I got them for my iPhone and my husbands android and iPad. They are antibacterial and non toxic for three years. I havent seen them in stores but I got mine at http://www.bacterminator.com

oneofeach4me

October 27th, 2011
3:17 pm

Just a few things:

1. A lot of you have it right. You carry good germs and bad germs and by going overboard with antibacterial stuff, you are killing off all the good ones that fight the bad ones! As one mom mentioned… Superbug! The only time we use antibacterial in my house is after handling raw meat or the turtle.

2. I also don’t take antibiotics for hardly anything. Actually I haven’t taken them for anything but Strep over the past 15 years. My son reacts HORRIBLY to strep, and I just don’t want to spread it to him. We had a constant outbreak last year (3 times in 2 months), finally figured out my 5 yr old nephew is a strep carrier.

3. Hot and Sour Soup is THE BOMB!!!! It works WONDERS!!!!