Germ zones to avoid this winter

With Autumn now upon us, we are officially facing the start of flu season. In addition to getting your yearly flu vaccination, the single best thing you can do to prevent getting the dreaded lurgy is to practice good hygiene: wash your hands regularly and keep your fingers away from your mouth and nose.

It might also be worth exerting extra caution in the following places, which are some of the most likely locations for picking up the flu or other illness this winter:


1. Your Work Desk

Believe it or not, your office desk harbours hundreds of times more bacteria per square inch than the toilet seats in your office building. It’s a good idea to wipe down your phone, keyboard and monitor once a day or at least once a week – and avoid eating in front of your computer as food particles contribute to germs. Yet another reason to get out of your chair at lunch time and catch some fresh air and vitamin D while you’re at it.


2. Your office lunch room’s fridge door

You might think the contents of your office fridge are bad enough (will somebody please take responsibility for that six week old avocado already?!) – but it’s the door handle which hosts the most germs. The commonly touched surface could easily be infected with flu germs by lunch time. Just another reason to wash your hands before you eat – and campaign for a weekly fridge clean-out.


3. Public toilets

It’s not just your nose (and eyes and ears) telling you that public toilets are germ traps; a University of Colorado study identified 19 groups of bacteria, including staphylococcus aureus—the bug linked with antibiotic-resistant infections—in public restrooms. The sinks in public toilets may be the most germ-ridden surface of them all, since the dampness allows microorganisms to survive. Make sure you use paper towels (not the dryer as it contains as many germs as the doors) to dry your hands after washing – and use a hand towel to open the door when exiting a public loo.


4. Public transport hubs

Airports, bus stations and train stations are hotbeds for germs and flu causing bacteria. People traveling from all over the country, and even the rest of the world, are simple moving their germs from one area to the next. Be mindful of door handles, luggage carts, chairs and arm rests and counters and keep some hand sanitiser handy at all times.


5. Aeroplanes and long-haul flights

It’s no coincidence that you seem to get sick every time you fly; a Canadian study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research in 2004 found passengers were 113 times more likely to have caught a cold or flu during a flight than during normal daily life. The solution? Stay hydrated during long flights (this helps to keep your mucous membranes functioning well which creates a barrier between you and influenza germs). Avoid using the seat pocket in front of you (previous passengers have put everything and anything in there, from used tissues to dirty diapers!); and pack a face mask in case your neighbour is a coughing, sniffling germ machine – you might think it looks a bit strange but that mask could save you from wasting your vacation in bed.


6. ATMs

With hundreds of people using ATMs each day (and who wipes them down for cleanliness?!), ATMs are hotbeds for germs just waiting to jump aboard your pin-typing digits. One study by the University of Arizona showed that each key on an ATM machine hosts an average of 1,200 germs, including E.coli, cold and flu viruses.


7. The grocery store

A trip to the shops to buy veggies for your hearty winter soup might just land you in hot water. Shopping trolleys and baskets contain thousands of germs, not just from your fellow shoppers but also from food products. Blood from raw meat can easily leak from packages and stick to cart handles, leaving you at risk of a range of food-borne illnesses. Better add some hand sanitiser to that shopping basket!


8. The gym

You put in all this effort to stay fit and healthy over winter and lo and behold you get struck down with the flu. Life is not fair! A study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found cold and flu-causing viruses on 63 percent of gym equipment. Weight equipment was contaminated significantly more than aerobic equipment – 72 percent versus 51 percent. The solution? Slather on the hand sanitiser in between sets.

Of course if all else fails and you get sneezed on by a complete stranger on the street – and wind up with the flu – the best thing to do is stay home in bed and limit your contact with others to avoid spreading your flu to others.

By dialling in to Docto from the comfort of your tissue-covered bed, you can get fast and effective treatment for your winter flu without having to leave the house.