Remember to defend your health

The dreaded ‘W’ word (winter) is fast approaching. So is the equally dreaded flu season. So remember to wash your hands after using the bathroom because it most certainly will hold the nasty viruses and germs at bay. Wait!

The dreaded ‘W’ word (winter) is fast approaching. So is the equally dreaded flu season.

So remember to wash your hands after using the bathroom because it most certainly will hold the nasty viruses and germs at bay.


A recent study by UNICEF actually concludes one of the safest germ-free places in the household might be the bathroom.

Flus in fall and winter are as traditional as Thanksgiving and Christmas, but they are hardly festive.

Kids are back in school and the chances of them coming home with symptoms, shared by other classmates, are far more predictable by a long shot than the right lottery numbers. Not to mention co-workers who insist on soldiering on to work while under the weather and sharing the bugs.

The UNICEF study found that cleaning a select few household items is likely more effective in combating germ warfare. It “reveals that the areas of a home most germ-ridden may be some of the least expected.” And that includes what you’re sitting on watching The Simpsons or Hockey Night in Canada — the sofa.

While a third of people think the bathroom is the main culprit in the house, microbiologists found the average family sofa “has a bacterial count that is a staggering 12 times more than a typical toilet seat,” says the study. “The family sofa earns a respectable 19,000 germs per square centimetre, while a toilet seat comes in at a paltry 1,600 in the same measurement.

The dirtiest household item was the trampoline, with bacteria levels of 640,000 per square centimetre, including harmful E.coli and enterobacteriaceae (whatever it is, it sounds dangerous).

And worst of all is the refrigerator — its handles collect four times more bacteria than toilets seats, says the study.

But don’t dismiss washing your hands as opposed to cleaning various parts of the household. The study says “cleaning may not be the most effective way to stop the spread of illnesses.”

“Hand washing is probably the most cost-effective and simple way to reduce diseases,” says environmental health expert Lisa Ackerley. “Literally, our safety, and that of others, is in our hands.”

Another study, this one conducted in the U.S., brings new meaning to the saying: “Don’t change that channel!” especially in a hotel room.

It determined television remotes are the most bacteria-ridden items in hotel rooms, even more than the bathrooms. “The research also found that (hotel) bedside lamps were rife with germs.”

Not to cause mass panic, but the publication Better Housekeeping recently named the “10 germiest places in your home.”

They are: underside of rugs, window blinds, credit cards, kitchen trash cans, household plants, your purse, top of the refrigerator, toothbrush holders, vacuum cleaner brushes and attachments, and yoga mats.

Of credit cards, Better Housekeeping says: “These everyday essentials get handled by lots of people, and germs can lurk in the crevices around the numbers.” (Do you know where the storekeepers’ hands have been?)

The magazine recommends: “Give debit and credit cards a quick cleaning with an alcohol wipe and let them air dry before placing them in your wallet.”

It’s been argued that our super-clean society is to blame for various viruses and illnesses infecting us because our antibody systems have been too well protected and our natural defences are down.

So we must defend ourselves any way possible.

The best advice to follow, according to health authorities, is wash your hands. And as the dreaded flu season approaches, get a flu shot.

Rick Zemanek is a retired Advocate editor.

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