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The Most Germ-Filled Hot Spots in Public Places - and How to Protect Yourself

As flu season continues, are you unsure about what’s okay to do and where it’s safe to go? Our experts offer tips on how to protect yourself.

To help us understand how risky some activities are now when it comes to catching highly transmissible colds and other viruses, including the flu, I went straight to the experts at NSF.

Don’t get touchy — it’s not always feasible to clean and disinfect the surfaces you touch when you’re in a public space. Try to avoid direct contact with commonly touched surfaces. One trick is to use a tissue, your sleeve or another cloth as a barrier between your hand and the surface.

The first step, though, is knowing what those high-touch hot spots are:

  • Beware When Booking It

    Whether you’re headed to the public library or borrowing from the Little Free Library book-sharing box in your neighborhood, be careful of door handles, a common source of germs. Library reading areas and computers, the kids’ reading space and copying machines are other places with shared surfaces.
  • Pew Pointers at Your Service

    If you’re eager to get back to church, the CDC lists the high-touch areas to keep your hands off in the pews (or at least make sure you scrub your hands or use sanitizer after the prayer service):
    • Pews or chairs
    • Bibles
    • Hymnals
    • Offering plates
    • Pens
  • You’ve Got Mail. High-Touch Surfaces at the Post Office Can Include:

    • Doorknobs (public doorknobs are also likely to harbor germs)
    • Handrails
    • Checkout area
    • Knobs on stamp machines
    • Counters where you find mailing labels, envelopes, etc.
  • Speaking of Mail…

    Your mailbox handle is a commonly touched surface. Washing your hands before and after touching it can help stop the spread of germs to your mail carrier and inside your home.

After you’ve been to these germy high-touch places, the best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands thoroughly - scrubbing for 20 seconds - before eating, touching your face or grabbing your smartphone. And if hand soap is not available, use sanitizer and rub your hands until they’re dry.


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