3 Common Habits You Don't Know are Making You Sick
1. Drying Dishes with a Dish Towel
Viruses and bacteria love a damp, warm piece of fabric where they can flourish while waiting to attack their next victim. A dish towel provides the perfect refuge from temporarily homeless pathogens that get displaced from their hosts through coughing, sneezing, sweating, etc.
Don’t forget about the stuff that nearby fans, a/c units and open doors escort to your beloved towel. If forces of nature aren’t bad enough some wipe their counters, cabinets and tables with that same towel, collecting even more germs.
Let’s take that dish towel that’s been sucking pathogens from the air and elsewhere, and smear them over nice, warm, freshly washed dishes. Since many viruses and bacteria can survive on surfaces like this for hours - even days, anyone who eats from our towel-dried dishes can get infected the moment their immune system isn’t quite 100%. Did you ever notice how common it is for an entire household to be sick at once?
You can begin this one right away: Let your dishes air dry.
If you must dry them immediately to store them, use disposable paper towels so you don’t give those pesky pathogens the chance to infect someone else (or you again).
2. Using a Table as a Plate, Especially at Public Places
It’s amazing how much faith we place in that “magic” washrag that appears to be universally possessed by waitstaff everywhere. The party before us gets up and leaves the table a mess. We want to sit, so we ask the waiter to clean the table.
He fashions his magic rag, gives it a few swipes across the table and we’re good to go. From here we might be perfectly fine with setting wet utensils on the table to reuse later, or even placing food on the table that won’t fit on our plates. Because the table is clean, right?
Chances are there was no disinfectant on that rag, and not enough care was taken to clear the table of whatever pathogenic microbes were accumulating there from the scores of guests before you.
Don’t let food or utensils touch the table directly.
We recommend trying this one at home too. You might be surprised to learn what is lingering on your kitchen or dining room table, where you don’t even possess a magic rag to take care of it.
3. Things You Touch [Almost] Every Day
We’re not trying to turn our readers into germaphobes, yet we’d like to increase the awareness that pathogenic microbes exist on commonly touched surfaces in public places. It may surprise you just how long these [uninvited] microscopic guests can stick around.
The rhinovirus, aka “common cold” germ can survive on indoor surfaces for up to 7 days. The cold virus can also remain infectious on hands to be spread to these surfaces for more than an hour.
Flu viruses remain infectious indoors for about 24 hours (although the droplets can remain infections in the air for up to 10 hours).
MRSA can survive on hard surfaces for days, and even weeks.
Clostridium difficile and other bacteria responsible for “stomach bugs” have been shown to survive for up to 5 months!
What shouldn’t we touch? We have no choice but to touch some things, but a good hand washing should follow after we touch any of these:
- ATM machines. A UK study that measured the levels of pathogens lurking around the numeric keypads of ATM machines and the tops of toilet seats found an equal amount of disease causing bacteria on each of them.
- Restaurant menus. Prevention reported that cold and flu viruses can survive on restaurant menus for up to 18 hours, and recommended washing your hands after placing your order, when most of us usually wash our hands before ordering our meals.
- Remotes. TV Remote controls in hotels have been a known haven for bacteria, but remotes in the home carry similar risks, and have been shown to be the leading carrier of bacteria in a patient’s hospital room. Next time you’re visiting your sick friend in the hospital, don’t offer to change the channel for her.
- Door handles, shopping carts and soap dispensers (ironically). Any surface that gets touched a lot by many people throughout the day, including the push button of soap dispensers can harbor bacteria.
We’ve all heard that we should wash our hands more frequently, but the quick, little changes we can make right away are really about timing. For example, washing our hands after touching a restaurant menu, and at least using a disinfectant wipe as quickly as possible after touching the other surfaces mentioned.