Study Pinpoints Where Household Germs Lurk and Linger

October 31, 2008 06:32 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The refrigerator door handle, doorknobs, and TV remotes are all places where germs often prosper, sometimes for days.

Hotspots for Household Germs

Those living with or near cold sufferers should beware icky surfaces such as the refrigerator door handle and the TV remote, where, according to a new study, germs can live for two days or longer.

“We found that commonly touched areas like refrigerator doors and handles were positive about 40 percent of the time” for cold germs, said Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist who helped conduct the study, according to the Associated Press.

The researchers at the University of Virginia asked adults infected with rhinovirus, which is responsible for about half of all colds, to list 10 places they had touched in their homes in the past 18 hours. The researchers then tested the locations, which included salt and pepper shakers, doorknobs, refrigerator handles, light switches, remote controls, bathroom faucets, phones and dishwasher handles, for contamination and found that many of the surfaces still harbored germs when retested later.

In a separate study last year, two University of Virginia researchers found fragments of cold viruses on 20 percent of children’s toys tested in the offices of pediatricians.

“Mamas know this,” said Dr. Owen Hendley, who worked on that study. “They say, ‘We go to a doctor for a well-child checkup, the kids play with the toys and two days later they have a cold.’”

ABC reports that the top 10 germ hotspots are purses and wallets, the remote control, laundry machines, cutting boards, phones, water fountains, buttons, yoga mats, airplane bathrooms and shopping carts.

But experts acknowledge that simply avoiding the abovementioned surfaces probably won’t suffice in protecting your health.

“There’s very few surfaces that are truly clean,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, president and CEO of New Island Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y., to ABC News. “You’re almost never going to culture something and not find some germs on it.”

Related Topic: Cold weather brings germs, viruses

The advent of winter is bringing with it ever more germs, viruses and ultimately, sickness than usual, in addition to the lower temperatures.

Sinus infections, upper respiratory tract infections and bronchitis are common ailments this season, according to Andrew Singer, an allergist and immunologist at Allergy & Asthma Affiliates in Alcoa, Tenn.

“One (problem) is that people start spending more time inside, and they live closer together so that’s when all the viruses begin to become a problem,” Singer said. “The other thing with the change in seasons is that you see a lot more mold, and people who are allergic to mold have more problems with sinus infections and wheezing and asthma.”

But a few preventative measures can help you stave off the sneezing and the sniffling this season. Medical experts widely recommend that you wash your hands frequently, use disinfectants, and keep your hands away from your face.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a few tips: (1) Lather up your hands for at least 15 seconds with plain soap and water, which has been found to kill more bacteria than anti-bacterial hand wipes. However, if you do not have access to water hand wipes are better than nothing at all. (2) Avoid germ hotspots, such as those mentioned above, where researchers have found high levels of amylase, an enzyme that is often an indication of contamination from bodily fluids. (3) Eat healthy and consistently, and sleep adequately.

Reference: ‘Cold and Flu: Relief, Remedies and Prevention’


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