I recently read an article on Infection Control Today, which was titled “Examining Ball Pits as a Playground for Pathogenic Organisms.” This article was surprising because, although it seems so obvious now, I would never have even thought about ball pits as a potential source of infection. And yet, ball pits are frequently filled with children, who are known to be more at risk for catching and transmitting infection, and are infrequently disinfected afterwards.
This led me to wonder which other places part of our every day lives are often overlooked as being a source of infection. After doing some more research on the subject, I’ve decided to share with you what I found out.
Similar to ball pits, it is no wonder that playgrounds are one of the germiest places in the community. Every day, many children go to the playground and make use of the equipment there. And as we all know, children are at high risk for catching and spreading infection. According to Web MD, the sandbox is one of the worst places in terms of contamination, since the sand absorbs bodily fluids like saliva or urine and there is no way to wipe it down after its been used.
It should come as no surprise that pubic restrooms appear on the list of high-risk places for germs. However, I’m not sure if people realize to what extent they are contaminated. You wouldn’t touch a toilet seat in a public restroom, but it turns out that faucets and door handles are also extremely contaminated. According to Web MD, even if you’ve washed your hands, you’re still at risk for contamination when you touch the door handle to leave the bathroom. This is because only 31% of men and 65% women actually wash their hands, meaning that the rest contaminate the door handles when they go to open it (Web MD, 2018).
You may have already heard that there are a lot of bacteria in grocery stores. The majority are found on shopping carts, where, for example, raw meat packages carrying salmonella are placed or babies are seated with dirty diapers. Most grocery stores have disinfectant wipes near the entrance with the carts, so it is advised that you use them.
Metros and buses are filled with germs! And it’s not surprising to see why. Thousands of people use public transportation each day, making seats, poles and handles high-touch areas. This makes public transport one of the biggest sources of harmful bacteria.
Similarly to all the other sources, gyms are filled with bacteria due to the high number of people who use equipment every day. According to Web MD, it was found that some free weights carried the same types of bacterias found in public restrooms (ick!). It is advised that you use the wipes provided at the gym both before and after using the equipment in order to protect yourself and prevent the spread of bacteria.
What can you do to protect yourself?
You may be wondering how on earth you’re supposed to protect yourself, when you’re surrounded by bacteria! While you can never avoid every germ, there are many ways to protect yourself and avoid getting sick. Web MD (2018) makes the following recommendations:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. And do it often.
- If you don’t have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth until you wash your hands.
- Use a spare paper towel to grab the public restroom door handle as you leave.