10 Facts To Put Struggling Germaphobes At Ease
Many people consider themselves germaphobes to some degree (or if they don’t, their less sanitary friends do). Mysophobia, the technical term for fear of germs, is something that can get out of hand rather quickly if you let it. That’s why we decided to peruse some of the more common germ-related beliefs out there and weed out those that are complete bunk in order to maintain the sanity of anyone teetering on the brink of letting their phobia get the best of them. You’re welcome.
1. Public toilet seats are totally safe to sit on. You can’t get infections or catch diseases just from your skin coming in contact with them. That’s the point of skin, after all. Sure, if the seat is covered in urine/feces or you have an open wound, you’d still be better off parking your keister elsewhere, but bacteria and viruses (including STDs) begin to die the second they lose contact with your body. Furthermore, once they land on the surface of a toilet seat, it’s lights out. To put a toilet seat into perspective, they generally have around 1,000 bacteria or less on their surfaces, while an object such as the average shoe contains millions.
2. Those of you who still prefer a seat cover as opposed to laying your bare cheeks on a cold, uninviting toilet seat should consider the fact that much like many of the overly cautious behaviors of a struggling germaphobe, they don’t help one bit when it comes to preventing the spread of germs. But if it’s strictly the psychological comfort you’re after, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing.
3. The soap you use on your hands and body doesn’t need to be labeled “antibacterial” in order to get the job done. The purpose of soap – all soap – is simply to get germs and viruses off of our hands. The real trick behind a good hand-washing is making sure to rinse them thoroughly with soap for 15 to 20 seconds (more on that in Fact #4). Furthermore, triclosan, the antibacterial agent found in antibacterial soap, has even been known to create resistant strains of bacteria in some lab experiments, giving you all the more reason not to let your all-consuming quest for cleanliness consume you.
4. While a Michigan State University study in 2013 found that only five percent of people properly wash their hands in public bathrooms, it’s not for lack of trying. While they may be doing it incorrectly, it’s better than skipping out altogether. If soap is available, roughly two-thirds of the population will use it, with only 10 percent not washing their hands at all, and the remainder opting to do so without soap. It may not be perfect, but we’re guessing those are better numbers than you’d expect.
Tip: For what is considered a “proper” hand wash, the CDC recommends running your hands under clean (warm or cold) water, and lathering well with soap while making sure to scrub both the front and back of your hands, in between fingers, and under the nails as best you can before rinsing your hands clean once again. The whole process should last about 20 seconds, which is the equivalent of singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice over. Be sure to then dry your hands with either a clean towel or a hand dryer.
5. Speaking of hand dryers, if you avoid them like the plague due to an ill-conceived notion that the blowing air spreads germs around the bathroom even more, you’d be wise to reconsider. Various tests sampling the air around hand dryers in busy restrooms showed no signs of increased bacteria whatsoever. Of course, if these hand dryers are touch activated, it might be beneficial to use a towel instead, as not only are they the more sanitary option, but the hand dryer buttons themselves will have accumulated some germs along the way. You could also simply start them up before washing your hands, as well.
6. Going back to Fact #4, since roughly two-thirds of people wash their hands, surfaces such as hand dryer buttons and, yes, even the dreaded bathroom door handle, still aren’t nearly as infested with germs as you might anticipate. Much like the surface of a toilet seat, the bacteria that does manage to make its way onto door handles can’t last all that long without a warm body to latch onto. Sure, public bathroom handles are more heavily trafficked and, hence, contain more bacteria than the average doorknob, but bacterial infections such as salmonella usually need to come in hefty doses to cause much of an effect on your body, so the odds of catching a bad case from even the filthiest door handle are pretty slim.
7. Much like bathroom door handles, the money that most of us come in contact with on a daily basis isn’t nearly as germ infested as we are led to believe. Sure, you still don’t want to eat without washing your hands after handling it, but no sane person would ever recommend eating without washing your hands anyways. Basically, due to money being dry, it doesn’t allow for bacteria to multiply to levels that would make you sick to the touch. And where coins are concerned, the metal in them actually acts as an antibacterial agent.
8. While anyone with young children knows it’s nearly impossible to keep them clean, the types of germs your children (and in turn, you) are exposed to depend on where they play. For instance, while bacteria reside in places such as gardens and large, grassy areas in your backyard, the particular germs involved aren’t pathogenic, which means they’re harmless to humans. However, if there are a lot of animal droppings around, this advice is null and void. Sandboxes are the true enemy, as they are the biggest target for animal droppings, and can even contain parasites that can harm your children.
9. When it comes to cold and flu season, people tend to steer clear of crowded, confined spaces as much as possible for fear of infection via gross people. However, these outbreaks often coincide with major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, when people HAVE to fly. Although you might think it is then impossible not to get sick in that situation, remember that most commercial airplanes are equipped with HEPA air filters which filter 99.9 percent of the bacteria and viruses in the air. As long as you keep your hands as clean as possible and avoid (if you can) anyone coughing and sneezing in your immediate vicinity, you should be in ship shape. Rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, is transmitted through surface contact, so if you can’t get to a sink, at least avoid touching your nose or eyes as much as possible.
Oh, and if your special lady/fella has a cold, always remember that most cold viruses don’t even exist in saliva, so you can still feel free to kiss them all you’d like (just avoid their ear and nose fluids, which frequently carry viruses).
10. Those struggling with their fear of germs obviously dread shaking hands more than the average person. While we’d love to tell you that your fears are unwarranted, as it turns out, 80 percent of all infectious diseases are transferred through direct (e.g. kissing) or indirect (e.g. shaking hands) contact. However, you don’t necessarily have to shake someone’s hand to greet them properly. A high-five can be a bit cheesy at times, but considering it cuts germ transfer nearly in half, it’s not a bad route to take. Similarly, the fist bump, which has become more and more acceptable as a greeting through the years, transfers 20 times less bacteria than your average handshake, leaving you with plenty of other options when it comes to spreading the love without spreading the germs.