Boost Your Immune System: How Germ Experts Stay Healthy

They’re less paranoid than you might expect, but what they worry about (airplanes, laundry!) will surprise you.

By Kimberly Hiss from Reader's Digest Magazine | November 2012

71% Don’t Clean Hands After Touching Public Surfaces

I’m [just] careful to wash my hands before eating. I didn’t get a respiratory infection because I touched a door handle after a sick person touched it; I got it because I then touched my hand to my eye or nose.
—Michael Pentella, PhD, clinical associate professor, University of Iowa College of Public Health

I press buttons with my knuckle—especially the ground-floor elevator button, because everyone touches that—or I use my middle finger because I’m less likely to then touch my face with it.
—Charles Gerba, PhD, professor of microbiology, University of Arizona

29% Carry Hand Sanitizer

I prefer soap and water. If that’s not available, I’ll use sanitizer—but I’m not religious about carrying it.
—Rima Khabbaz, MD, director for infectious diseases at the CDC

86% Don’t Disinfect Shopping Carts

You’ll find germs on shopping cart handles, but you’ll also find them on meat and other food as well. After I leave the grocery store, I use an alcoholic wipe or gel on my hands. Then I wash them after I unload the groceries at home.
Philip Tierno, PhD, clinical professor of micro-biology and pathology, Langone Medical Center, NYU

50% Have Special Laundry Hygiene Habits

I do an underwear load last because an average pair contains about a hundred thousand fecal bacteria, and I don’t want that transferring to other loads. About once a week, I put a half cup or a cup of bleach into the empty machine and run it with only water to kill any germs.
 —Charles Gerba, PhD

I did a study on the ability to kill germs on fabric. I washed in hot water, washed in cold, and used standard detergents, and while the bacteria were decreased by washing, to get rid of them all, a hot dryer worked best. Dry your clothes well, and you’ll kill germs.
 Michael Pentella, PhD

86% Protect Themselves on Planes

I cover the tray with a napkin so I don’t set food directly on it. I avoid putting things in the seat pocket, because it may contain items from prior passengers.
  —Michael Pentella, PhD

I never use water from the plane restroom’s sink because those water tanks form biofilms, which are replete with germs. So I use an alcoholic gel or towelette (I do this before eating too). I don’t use headrest covers or blankets that aren’t sealed.         —Philip Tierno, PhD

67% Steer Clear of Sick People

I stay at least three feet away. Most germs are spread by droplets; talking and sneezing produce droplets that fall within a six-foot range.
—Michael Pentella, PhD

86% Sneeze into Their Elbow

Don’t sneeze into your hands and then touch somebody; that transfers those viral particles. Even worse is when I see people just sneeze right out into the air—the spray can hit dozens of people.
—Philip Tierno, PhD

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

Sending Message
how we use your e-mail

Your Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus