Quiz: Are You Protected From Germs?

Part 3 of our 8-part series: Take this fun quiz, and learn the Secrets of Healthy Americans, based on our national poll. And be sure to download our free Secrets of Healthy Americans reports at the end of this quiz.


Humana and Reader’s Digest polled the nation to bring you the Secrets of Healthy Americans, and we’re sharing the highlights with you in this 8-part series. Answer the questions here. Then see how you compare to the nationwide sample who took the Humana Reader’s Digest Healthy Habits Survey 2012—and get easy-to-follow advice to help you live a healthier life.

And, as an exclusive bonus, download all free 8 parts of our Secrets of Healthy Americans reports, including 200+ health tips on Fitness, Sleep, Germs, Protecting Yourself From Illness, Eating Right, Boosting Your Mood, Reducing Stress, and Sharpening Your Brain.

How many times did you wash your hands with soap and water yesterday?

a) 1 to 4 times
b) 5 to 7 times
c) 8 or more times
d) None

Here’s how you compare:

Our Healthy Habits Survey shows that one adult American in four (27%) washes his hands fewer than four times a day—if at all! That’s half as many as the eight times health experts recommend to fight germs that can cause everything from colds to flu and worse. People with children at home do best. A full 44% of them wash the recommended eight times or more a day.

Here’s an idea: Like your mother said, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water—at least—when you wake up, before eating, after each time you use the toilet, and when you go to bed. Also, wash after handling food and sorting laundry. Studies show that washing for a minimum of 20 seconds with plain old soap and hot running water is twice as effective at eliminating germs as hand sanitizers.

Still, always carry hand sanitizers. When you can’t get to a sink, sanitizers containing 99.5 ethanol are better than nothing. Remember this idea the next time you’re introduced to four people; chances are at least one of those hands you’re shaking hasn’t been washed in hours! And simple cold viruses can live for hours. Wipe away the germs as soon as politely possible. Otherwise, you’re risking that whatever germs you picked up will get from your hand to your mouth, eyes, or nose—the most common way germs invade the body.

How many times did you shower or bathe in the last three days?

a) 1 to 2 times
b) 3 times
c) 4 or more times
d) None

Here’s how you compare:

Americans, on average, are showering or bathing about once a day—again about half as much as some experts suggest. And seniors do even worse. Seniors, on average, shower or bath fewer than three times a week!

Here’s an idea: A number of experts prefer showers to sitting in baths. They also recommend washing away your germs for a full 12 minutes each time you shower. If you have trouble standing that long in a shower, put a simple plastic chair in your shower and relax as germs wash down the drain.

Did you wash your hands the last time you used a public toilet?

a) Yes
b) No

Here’s how you compare:

More than 90% of people say they wash their hands after using a public toilet, but only about 75% actually do.

Here’s an idea: By all means, wash your hands every time you use a public toilet. But then don’t pick up germs as you leave. No matter what you may have heard, the public toilet’s door handle is the most germ-infested object there. Don’t touch the door handle on the way out! It can harbor up to 40,000 germs per square inch, and fewer than 10 viral particles can infect you. If you don’t have a sanitizer to protect your hand, take dry paper towels from the dispenser and open the door holding them. Then discard the towels in the first public receptacle you see.

How many times did you brush your teeth yesterday?

a) None
b) Once
c) Twice
d) Three or more times

Here’s how you compare:

Adults, on average, brush around twice a day, which is the minimum that many health experts recommend. Seniors again do worse. More than one in three (34%) brush only once a day—if at all. That’s especially unfortunate, since people 65 and older generally become increasingly prone to cavities and other dental problems.

Here’s an idea: In addition to suggesting that you brush at least when you wake up and when you go to bed, experts say you need to brush right. Many dental professionals suggest that you brush in a circular motion for two minutes each time. By comparison, most of us brush for about 40 seconds.

Try putting a kitchen timer near the sink to tick off the time. But if flogging your teeth for two minutes seems more than you can bear, invest in an automatic oscillating toothbrush. Studies found that toothbrushes with bristles that rotate in alternating directions remove more plaque than manual brushes and lower the risk of gum disease—an often-dangerous condition.

Need added motivation to brush more often? Consider this: Even slight gum disease fuels inflammation that can clog arteries, raise blood sugar and possibly contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Not to mention bad breath.

How many times did you floss your teeth yesterday?

a) None
b) Once
c) Twice
d) Three times or more

Here’s how you compare:

Dental experts have long noted that flossing between your teeth removes potentially dangerous particles that brushing misses. And it promotes healthier gums to prevent redness, bleeding, and disease. Many experts say you should floss for about a minute after every meal. Yet half of all adults (49%) do not floss at all. And seniors again do worse. A full 55% of them don’t floss.

Here’s an idea
: Hate to floss? Buy non-shredding monofilament floss, and try a battery-powered flosser. Powering up can take the drudgery out of flossing and help you avoid serious gum-related illnesses.

When was the last time a dental professional cleaned your teeth?

a) Within the past 6 months
b) Within the past year
c) 2 to 5 years ago
d) More than 5 years ago

Here’s how you compare:

Many health experts urge that you get your teeth cleaned by a dental professional every six months. But roughly half (47%) of all adults and even more seniors (57%) have not had their teeth cleaned in the past six months. Worse, among seniors, 13% of people 65 and older have not had their teeth cleaned for more than five years!

Here’s an idea
: Our survey suggests that some people see dental care as a luxury they can’t afford. High- and lower-income Americans visit doctors roughly as often. But there is a huge difference in their habits when it comes to seeking dental care. A full 95% of higher-income Americans, making $150,000 or more, have gotten their teeth cleaned in the past year, compared to only 59% of those making $40,000 or less.

 If you have the option, choose health insurance that includes dental care. You may have to pay a bit more, but consider those extra dollars as an investment in a longer and healthier life.

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