Skip Nav
Strong Abs Start With This 7-Minute Workout
Shopping Guide
Running and Lifting in the Same Workout? Here Are the Shoes You Need
These Wheat-Free Pancakes Are Perfect For a Low-Carb Brunch

8 Germiest Public Places to Avoid

We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!

Excerpt from The List Maker’s Get-Healthy Guide, By the Editors of Prevention

Avoid touching these surfaces in public places to stay healthy.

An average adult can touch as many as 30 objects within a minute, including germ-harboring, high-traffic surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, phone receivers, and remote controls. At home, you do all that you can to keep the germs at bay. But what happens when you step out the door to go to dinner, do some grocery shopping, or visit the doctor's office? Know where germs are most likely to lurk, as you'll find out here.

1. Restaurant menus
Have you ever seen anyone wash off a menu? Probably not. A recent study in the Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces. If it's a popular restaurant, hundreds of people could be handling the menus — and passing their germs on to you. Never let a menu touch your plate or silverware, and wash your hands after you place your order. Or use antibacterial wipes.

Related: See low-calorie restaurant menu items

2. Lemon wedges
According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70 percent of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes. When the researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants, they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons that they secured, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria. Tell your server that you'd prefer your beverage sans fruit. Why risk it?


Related: See 9 condiments with surprising health benefits

3. Condiment dispensers
It's the rare eatery that regularly bleaches its condiment containers. And the reality is that many people don't wash their hands before eating, says Kelly Reynolds, PhD. So while you may be diligent, the guy who poured the ketchup before you may not have been, which means his germs are now on your fries. Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the condiment bottle or use a disinfectant wipe before you grab it. Holding the bottle with a napkin won't help; napkins are porous, so microorganisms can pass right through, Reynolds says.

Keep reading for more germy spots to avoid!

4. Restroom door handles
Don't think you can escape the restroom without touching the door handle? Palm a spare paper towel after you wash up and use it to grasp the handle. Yes, other patrons may think you're a germaphobe — but you'll never see them again, and you're the one who won't get sick.

5. Soap dispensers
About 25 percent of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria. Soap that harbors bacteria may seem ironic, but that's exactly what a recent study found. "Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria grow as the soap scum builds up," says Charles Gerba, PhD. "And the bottoms are touched by dirty hands, so there's a continuous culture feeding millions of bacteria." Be sure to scrub hands thoroughly with plenty of hot water for 15 to 20 seconds — and if you happen to have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, use that, too.

6. Grocery carts
The handles of almost two-thirds of the shopping carts tested in a 2007 study at the University of Arizona were contaminated with fecal bacteria. In fact, the bacterial counts of the carts exceeded those of the average public restroom. Swab the handle with a disinfectant wipe before grabbing hold (stores are starting to provide them, so look around for a dispenser). And while you're wheeling around the supermarket, skip the free food samples, which are nothing more than communal hand-to-germ-to-mouth zones.

7. Airplane bathrooms
When Gerba tested for microbes in the bathrooms of commercial jets, he found surfaces from faucets to doorknobs to be contaminated with E. coli. It's not surprising, then, that you're 100 times more likely to catch a cold when you're airborne, according to a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research. To protect yourself, try taking green tea supplements. In a 2007 study from the University of Florida, people who took a 450-milligram green tea supplement twice a day for 3 months had one-third fewer days of cold symptoms. The supplement brand used in the study was Immune Guard ($30 for 60 pills;

Related: 10 worst things that make you sick

8. Doctor's office
A doctor's office is not the place to be if you're trying to avoid germs. These tips can help limit your exposure:

  1. Take your own books and magazines (and kid's toys, if you have your children or grandchildren with you).
  2. Also pack your own tissues and hand sanitizers, which should be at least 60% alcohol content.
  3. The waiting room, leave at least two chairs between you and the other patients to reduce your chances of picking up their bugs. Germ droplets from coughing and sneezing can travel about three feet before falling to the floor.

Related: 10 worst things that make you sick

7 Germiest Public Places

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 6 years
Wait, a napkin won't keep you safe from a dirty condiment bottle because it's porous, but somehow a paper towel will spare your hands from touching the handle on the way out of the bathroom?
myhousemd myhousemd 6 years
How long have we been living unaware of this and getting along just fine? If it were a problem, we would have noticed a pattern of getting sick after encountering all these things. If you have a compromised immune system, then these are good tips. For the rest of us, it's hype to sell unnecessary antibacterial products.
GummiBears GummiBears 6 years
freddiebaby freddiebaby 6 years
The only one of these I'd consider is the toilet-door handle one. The rest are overly paranoid. There's enough different strains of E. coli that finding it on your lemons does not always mean food poisoning. Faecal E. coli are normal and (most of the time) harmless gut residents, they are unlikely to make you sick. These kinds are the ones that turn up on bathroom doors and lemons. I work with pathogenic E. coli and I could lick an agar plate of it and not get sick because the one I work with causes a completely different set of diseases to the gut-pathogenic types.
cfp cfp 6 years
Also I have to say, I've spent many years working in the service industry, and we DO wash the menus...things get wiped down, sprayed, or washed a lot more often than you think! Either way, I still spend a few nights a week managing at a restaurant, and I touch HUNDREDS of menus, and I'm perfectly fine.
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 6 years
I agree with runswimmmerrun, I'm going to go ahead and hold the menu, touch the condiment dispensers, and not freak about about germs 365 days a year, and get my cold that i get about once a year or less.
runswimmerrun runswimmerrun 6 years
Paranoia... Don't go around licking these surfaces, but just live your life and your immune system will do the rest. (Because you will have developed one.)
What It's Like to Do the Whole30
Harley Pasternak Spinach Smoothie Recipe
Taraji P. Henson Quotes on Body Positivity
Is the Menstrual Cup Better For Exercise?
From Our Partners
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds