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Germs and You: Seven Ways They Touch Your Life

There is no way to be in denial that it's cold and flu season with so many co-workers, commuters, and gym-goers coughing and blowing their noses all around me. Other illnesses are lurking too, and prevention is all about knowing how to steer clear of germs in the first place. If you know how they spread, you can avoid getting sick. Here are seven ways you come into contact with germs:

  1. Direct contact: This is when you touch someone who is sick. Shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and sexual activity with someone who has a cold or stomach bug is a great way to get yourself sick too.
  2. Indirect contact: This is when you touch something that an infected person has touched. Door knobs, hand railings, counters, salt and pepper shakers, and gym equipment are all public items that hundreds have touched before you. If one of them was sick and you touch the object, you're at risk for illness.
  3. Droplet spread: This one grosses me out. Germs can spread through the air in the form of droplets when someone talks, sneezes, or coughs. Don't worry about insulting a person who's sick. Stand back for your own health's sake.

How else can germs spread? To find out,


  1. Fecal-to-oral route: Um, ew. If someone uses the bathroom and doesn't wash their hands properly (or at all), and that person shakes your hand or you touch the door to the bathroom they touched, then it's a great way to contract an illness such as Hepatitis A.
  2. Common-vehicle spread: This is when something is infected, such as the town water supply or salmonella-tainted meat. There's not much you can do except avoid whatever is contaminated.
  3. Airborne spread: You all heard about the anthrax scare. This is an example of an airborne spread. Germs can remain in tiny droplets in the air for hours or even days. Enclosed places and poor air circulation don't help the situation. So whenever possible open up windows, go outside and get fresh air, and avoid lengthy commutes in a train or plane.
  4. Vector-borne spread: Malaria, Lyme disease, and rabies are examples of this. It occurs when a contaminated insect or animal transfers germs to you through a bite. Bug spray and avoiding strange dogs should keep you safe.

I think I will go wash my hands now. What about you?


Join The Conversation
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
this is one of the biggest things that i hate about nyc this time of year. you can't commute without having the BIGGEST fear that you're going to get germs from everything - and get sick. it grosses me out on a daily basis, and seeing this list makes it even that much worse for me.
Allytta Allytta 8 years
but Hep A is so rare in developed countries. i went to see my GP and he told me not to worry about it until i decide to go to Africa etc.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I'm a microbiologist and I'm not exactly a "germophobe", even though I work with them every day. Even though germs ARE everywhere, most of them are fairly harmless and won't do anything to you. Other germs are actually beneficial and live on/in your body and produce things like Vitamin K. They also populate your system so that harmful bacteria can't establish a population of their own. Fecal/oral spread is actually a leading cause of food-borne illness. Almost all food-poisoning bacteria can be found in feces, so it's very, VERY important to wash your hands before and during your food prep and cooking. Also be sure to heat your food to at least 140 degrees to kill anything that's in it. Your best bets to avoid getting sick are to wash your hands frequently (use hot water and regular soap and scrub for at least 30 seconds) and eat a diet high in fiber to be sure you have a healthy intestinal flora. Because yeah, you're not going to be able to avoid germs on things around you...those toilet-seat covers or antibacterial wipe things are kinda like spitting into the ocean when it comes to germs.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
And ALL of these reasons are why people say i'm a complete germophobe (and I'm proud to say I am! though I'm not like supercrazy about it). The best way to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands CONSTANTLY. And don't touch your face a lot; germs enter the body through orifices like the nose, mouth, ears, and eyes. gross. I am so paranoid of getting the flu...I had it once and it was THE WORST. As soon as I can get a flu shot, I will!
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 8 years
Ok #4 is :barf: That's why I ALWAYS get a paper towel with me after I wash my hands in a public bathroom to open the door with. :p
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