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Where The Germs Are

We're officially in the flu and cold season and germs are pretty much everywhere. Now is the time to be diligent about washing your hands and making sure your kids are washing theirs. Want to know where the "germiest" places are? Get your sanitizer ready and follow me.<br mce_bogus="1">
We're officially in the flu and cold season and germs are pretty much everywhere. Now is the time to be diligent about washing your hands and making sure your kids are washing theirs. Want to know where the "germiest" places are? Get your sanitizer ready and follow me.

According to a study by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a unit of personal hygiene giant Kimberly-Clark Corp, the number one germy place is the gas pump handle. Think about it... everyone who has a car needs gas, and the days of someone else pumping it for you are long gone.

To find out where the most germs are lurking, researchers sent hygienists to swab and take samples of hundreds of surfaces around six U.S. cities. They found the handles on gas pumps make for the coziest breeding grounds for germs. Eeew.

Other filthy public places where germs love to congregate are:
- Shopping carts
- Handles on public mailboxes
- Escalator rails
- Buttons on ATM bank machines
- Parking meters and kiosks
- Crosswalk buttons
- Buttons on vending machines in shopping malls.

Why are these places the germiest? Because when is the last time you saw anyone clean a gas pump, mailbox, or any of the other places listed? Never.

Dr. Charles Gerba, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Arizona, says the study underscores the need for people to wash their hands as soon as they get to work and throughout the day. "People do not realize the amount of contamination they are exposed to going to work each day and doing everyday things like filling their gas tank or riding on an escalator," said Gerba in a news release.

So what can you do to prevent these germs from infecting your body? It all comes down to basic hygiene. Wash your hands often, and wash them long enough. How long is long enough? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says twenty seconds is a good time frame. If you're not sure how long twenty seconds is - hum "Happy Birthday" from beginning to end twice.

Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents -- making it harder to kill these germs in the future.

There are times though when sanitizers are really helpful. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

You can easily spread germs to your family if your hands are dirty, think about that when you hug your little one. But even if you're not around, your kids should be washing their hands too.

Help children stay healthy by encouraging them to wash their hands properly and frequently. Wash your hands with your child to show him or her how it's done. Make sure that your child's school has a hand washing policy and that it is followed.

Hand washing is one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of germs. Adopting this easy habit can play a major role in protecting your family's health.

And the next time you're at the gas pump, you might want to rub it down with a sanitizer towelette before grabbing the handle... just saying.
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