Good Habits Aren’t Just for Pandemics

You’ve probably been bombarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s handwashing campaign in recent months. But considering the many other viruses that have always been around, you might wonder, shouldn’t people practice good health habits all the time, not just during a pandemic?

Deb Strahler with the Williamson County and Cities Health District provided some tips on staying healthy all the time. “Every day, you come into contact with millions of outside germs and viruses,” she says. “They can linger on your body, and in some cases, they may make you sick. Personal hygiene practices can help you and the people around you prevent illnesses all year long.”

Following are some things not to be overlooked in our daily lives—even while we’re focused on temporal concerns like masks and distancing—and perhaps should continue doing even after the current crisis. 

For more information about staying healthy throughout the year, visit cdc.gov/HealthyLiving.

  • Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. Cleaning removes germs from surfaces, whereas disinfecting destroys them. Cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and most of the germs is usually enough. Often, you may want to disinfect for an extra level of protection from germs. In some instances, germs live on surfaces for hours or days. 
  • Consider hanging clothes in the sun to dry. The sun’s rays will kill some germs and parasites.
  • Sharing bath towels can spread or transfer germs and bacteria. If someone in the household is ill, keep those towels and cloths separate. 
  • Wash your sheets frequently. Bacteria multiply rapidly in unwashed bed sheets—and pajamas and clothing—which can lead to infections. 
  • Refilling a disposable plastic water bottle too often, or a reusable bottle without washing it may result in large amounts of bacteria—including E. coli. Over time, chemicals leach from dirty plastic bottles and can lead to more serious conditions.

Everyone else does it

If you’re touching fixtures or multi-use items in public, a lot of other people are too. While hand wipes are hard to come by right now, keep in mind…

Using gloves is only helpful as long as you change them between surface touches. Otherwise, you are just transferring bacteria from one location to another. 

If your restaurant does not use single-use paper menus, request a cleaned one. 

Shopping cart handles carry Salmonella, and E. Coli, and other organisms. (Univ. of AZ studies)

A study by the maker of Kleenex found 71% of gas pump handles were found to have high levels of contamination. If you don’t have gloves or wipes, grab a paper towel from the window washing stand. 

We already know our bills and coins are not clean, but ATMs are also covered in microbes from human skin, similar to those found in bathrooms. It is best to disinfect after using rather than wiping the keyboard first and potentially transferring germs to your finger.

For less than $100, a handheld, portable UVC light device will deactivate bacteria, viruses, and fungi on surfaces (do not use on skin).  

If those don’t convince you, (from State Food Safety)…

  • Toilet seat: 1,201 bacteria / square inch
  • Kitchen counter: 1,736 bacteria / square inch
  • Pet food dish: 2,110 bacteria / square inch
  • Checkout screen: 4,500 bacteria / square inch
  • Doorknob: 8,643 bacteria / square inch
  • Cell phone: 25,127 bacteria / square inch

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