Posts Tagged ‘germs’

Things I Wish I Didn’t Know: Birthday Edition

June 30, 2016


I am a self professed germaphobe. I wipe down all of my equipment at the gym, cover my bike’s handlebars with towels, and disinfect my kitchen regularly while cooking. If I have to grab the subway pole, I run to wash my hands before touching anything else. Drinking fountains? I’d rather not. Just the talk of a stomach bug sends my insides reeling. Keeping all that in mind,  I wish I had never read this article on Bustle today, about the extreme spread of germs on a birthday cake, after the candles are blown out.

That time honored ritual of making a wish and blowing out the candles is appartently an episode of Outbreak waiting to happen. When the birthday girl or boy gathers their breath to blow out the candles in one fell swoop, they turn into virtual crop dusters,  spraying the cake with germs. Don’t even ask me think about those who need more than one try. The article goes on to claim that kids in particular harbor more germs, so it is very likely they are contaminating the whole cake in with one, big blow. For those celebrating a flu season birthday, all bets are off.

Perhaps it is time to start a trend, of using a chic fan, or a dramatic waving of (clean please) hands over the cake to extinguish the candles.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Washing Their Hands of It All

February 20, 2015



The Republicans have long argued that there is too much government regulation in the world for their tastes. The latest “onerous” business mandate to be the bone of their contention is hand washing.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina suggests that restaurant owners should have the option of posting signs saying ” We don’t require our employees to wash their hands when leaving the restroom,” in lieu of the current sign that does require clean hygiene.

First of all: Gross. Second of all: Doesn’t he  have anything more important to deal with? Third of all: Gross.

Proper hand washing protects us from the spread of fecal-oral pathogens which can contaminate our food. Allowing restaurant workers to have the option to transmit disease and infection to customers through poor hygiene is ridiculous and dangerous.

Tillis does acknowledge that hand washing is important, but feels it is the restaurant owners perogative to decide if they want to risk people boycotting their establishments due to questionable sanitation or not.

Is it just us, or is having to have a sign stating that employees didn’t wash their hands just as much regulation as having one that requires they do?

While this isn’t meant to be about political party affiliations, it is about politicians spending tax dollars to discuss policy that is ridiculous, unnecessary, potentially harmful to their constituents, and did we mention GROSS?

photo: glasshouse images

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How To Stay Healthy

February 5, 2015

It’s the height of cold and flu season, and germs are absolutely everywhere. We all know that we should wash our hands thouroughly with soap and water and avoid touching our faces as a precaution. We also know the subway pole at rush hour is probably more germ ridden than a public toilet seat, but sometimes we have to touch it anyways.


But what else do we touch that could potentially be a cesspool of germs?

When was the last time you wiped down both sides of your cell phone, and your earbuds? Do you wipe the light switches and door knobs in your home? How about the refrigerator door handle? Do you ever clean the remote control, or the railings of your staircase? Your key- board and mouse? A no brainer.

You can’t control the air quality when trapped in a plane or train, but you can take a few minutes to disinfect your seat, armrests and tray tables. So what if someone looks at you like you are crazy? If it keeps me healthy, I can take the smirk of a stranger. When I boarded a flight last summer that didn’t smell so good, the row behind me was happy to take a disinfectant wipe when they found traces of vomit on their seats. I can’t even think about what is there that we don’t see. (Shudder.)

Warm, moist environments are breeding grounds for germs. Run your washing machine through a cycle with a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar and hot water to clean the machine itself. You can do the same with the dishwasher.

Walk into the gym at the begining of a class, and everything seems clean and fresh. Check it out at the end of the class when the weights, bikes and mats are covered with sweat. Arrive a little early and wipe down your equipment before using it. Trust me, it’s gross.

Many viruses are airborne. If someone is coughing or sneezing near you, try to hold your breath for at least 10 or 15 seconds and turn away, to avoid breathing in the recently released germs.

Much of our immunity is in our stomachs. Your gut has a barrier of healthy bacteria that can prevent the absorbtion of pathogens. Probiotics can enhance this barrier. In addition to taking a probiotic suppliment, you can eat more fermented foods, drink kumbucha, or eat plain yogurt.

Of course the stronger your immune system is, the healthier you will stay. In addition to employing Howard Hughes like tactics to avoid germs, it’s important to maintain good health by eating well, staying hydrated, getting exercise and sufficient sleep.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Lemon Aid

January 30, 2014


Tossing a lemon into your drink is tasty and healthy, right? Well, that depends.

In a recent study by the Journal of Environmental Health, the rinds of 76 lemons collected from a variety of restaurants were swabbed for bacteria. A startling 70% of them contained microbial growth. The data was collected as soon as the drinks were served, before they were touched by the person consuming them.
The exact source of the bacteria is unknown, but it is thought that the source could be from the employee who handled them, or cross contamination from poultry or meat.

Similar experiments conducted by the New York University Medical Center and commissioned by ABC News  turned up even more bad news: over half of the lemons they tested were contaminated by human fecal matter. The cause: lemons are often handled with the bartender’s bare hands. While many establishments rinse the lemons before cutting them, many do not actually scrub them.
Among the specimens collected were E. coli, staphylococcus epidermidis and candida, a fungus commonly found in the vagina. While they didn’t test specifically for viruses, such as norovirus or the cold virus, this type of contamination is typically an indicator that they are present.

Similar microbes have been discovered on communal items in restaurants such as salt and pepper shakers, menus and ketchup bottles.

Now that you are completely grossed out, it’s important to note that a strong immune system may help prevent people from getting sick.

Squeezing the lemon into the glass and not dropping the whole piece in, helps to a certain extent. At home, scrub the lemon with a brush, and avoid cross contamination with other foods.

After handling shared items in restaurants, wash your hands before touching your food.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Avoiding the Flu

January 14, 2013


My office sounds like the TB ward at a hospital; coughing, sneezing, sniffling and more endless coughing. It’s that time of the year again, and according to the Center for Disease Control, the flu has reached epidemic proportions.

A flu shot makes you 62% less likely to catch this severe version of the seasonal bug, and this year’s vaccine is well matched to the most prevalent strain.
Even with the shot, stringent measures are necessary to protect yourself from the flu virus.

Wash you hands regularly. Use soap, warm water and rub your hands together for the time it takes you to sing happy birthday twice. Dry them well.

If you can’t wash your hands, a hand sanitizer like Purell is the next best thing.

Sneeze into your elbow, use a knuckle to press the elevator buttons, and use your elbow to turn off the faucet. The less you actually touch, the less germs you actually spread.

Avoid touching your face, and especially avoid rubbing your eyes. The eyes are not only the “gateway to your soul,” but also a key entry point for germs to get into your system.

Avoid overly crowded places. Being smashed into a subway car at rush hour nose to nose with hundreds of strangers is a sure fire way to spread germs. Holding onto the pole just takes it to the next level. If you can, walk to your destination instead. You will avoid the risk of infection, lower your stress level, and burn a few calories in the process.

If you must take crowded public transportation, be sure to sanitize your hands immediately.  The rest is just unavoidable.

Airplanes are another hotbed of germs. Take some disinfectant wipes along to wipe down your armrests and try tables. Drink water throughout the flight to stay hydrated and keep nasal passages moist.  I have heard people swear by smearing a little antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin on their noses to form a barrier for germs. Old wives tale, or good idea? You be the judge.

I skip the salad bar, especially this time of year. I realize this is one of my freakish germ phobic issues, but think about it. Everyone that goes through the line is touching the same utensils and breathing on the food. If every single person did not just wash their hands before approaching the salad bar (and you KNOW they didn’t) than it is one of the germiest spots around. Now take those hands that just shared tongs with the entire unwashed population of salad lovers and go eat with them. Yep, now you get the picture.

Unless you intend to wear a HAZMAT suit and mask, some exposure to the virus is unavoidable. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthfully and exercise. All of these are factors in building up your immune system.

If you do get the flu, drink lots of fluids, rest and please, stay away from the rest of us until you get better!

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