Everyone knows they are supposed to wash their hands often, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Everyone knows they are supposed to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. And everyone knows if they sprinkle when they tinkle, they should be a sweetie and wipe the seatie… so why do germs spread so easily in public places?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), germs spread when you “touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands, touch a contaminated surface or objects, or blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects,”.

In America today, there are so many common places that people frequent and leave their germs behind; retail stores, grocery stores, gyms, schools, banks, medical facilities, movie theaters, parks, restaurants, and gas stations, just to name a few. How many times a day do you use a credit or debit card machine at a store? How many doors do you open? How many times do you use a public restroom? How many people touched what you touched before you touched it? 

In addition to the basic fundamentals of personal hygiene in public places, here are a couple of tips many people might not consider. 

  1. Germs transfer to and from wet hands more easily than dry hands, so always dry your hands with a clean cloth or air dryer and do not touch the faucet or door handles with clean hands. 
  2. Fingernails are like a reservoir for microbes – do not bite/chew your nails and clean underneath your nails while handwashing.
  3. After sneezing/coughing into a tissue, throw that tissue away immediately – don’t put it in your pocket or put in on the table or a common surface. 
  4. If you use a cloth napkin at a restaurant, and you leave it on the table for the wait staff to handle, they contaminate their hands then move to the next patron’s table, or worse, their food.  
  5. If you do not have a tissue, cover your cough or sneeze with your upper sleeve at your elbow and turn away from other people. 
  6. If you visit a public bathroom, clean up after yourself. Do not put your purse or a bag on the floor then on any counter/table/seat. Use a square of toilet paper to flush. 
  7. Cell phones are one of the most heavily contaminated objects we own. We constantly have them in our hands and up to our ear/mouth – be sure to use an antibacterial wipe on that, too. 
  8. Disinfect your work space/car/house regularly, including phones, computer keyboards, desks, steering wheel, door handles, etc.
  9. Do not wear shoes inside your house – germs can fall to the floor/ground and are transferred into your house as soon as you walk through the door. 
  10. Use hand sanitizer often – after pumping gas, using credit/debit machines at grocery stores/pharmacies, using ATMs, 

The CDC recently launched a campaign called Life is Better with Clean Hands to raise awareness and to motivate adults to make handwashing part of their everyday lives and to be good clean hand role models for their children. This effort promotes handwashing as a family activity and as a healthy habit, just like exercise. If we all do our part to maintain personal hygiene standards, public places will subject us to much less of a risk, especially in times like these.