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Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
8:41 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

Let's talk about that other four-letter word

No, not that one. This word is nasty, not insulting. It's GERM!

Do you have a program for limiting and reducing the number of germs that touch or enter your body? Fighting germs doesn't stop in the dreary fall and winter months; it's a year-long effort.

Here are some helpful tips for minimizing your chances of lying in bed the next week with a bad bug, and some easy ways to stop germs. Actually, it's information to live by.

No. 1 - Don't Touch the First Floor Elevator Button

In an elevator, the first-floor button harbors the most germs because more people touch it than any other button. Wait for someone else to do the pushing. If you're alone, use your elbow instead of your finger. (Use your elbow even if others are watching. Who cares if they think you don't have both oars in the water.)

No. 2 - Shopping Cart Handles

Talk about a germ carrier. There are so many germs on those handles they should be arrested. Some supermarkets offer germ-killing towel dispensers in the cart area. Use them or bring your own to sanitize the cart handle, and never put fresh produce in the cart seat. That's where diaper-aged children often sit. Yuck!

No. 3 - Escalator Handrails

Never touch them. They're loaded with germs.

No. 4 - Use the First Toilet

Research shows that most people use the middle stalls in public bathrooms. So avoid those. This means they're the dirtiest and have more of the bad guys.

No. 5 - Office Coffee Pots - Yikes!

You're on the way for a nice cup of coffee and sweet roll in your office when you notice someone has cleaned the pot and mug with a sponge they found in the sink.

If you don't have your own mug and you grab the handle, you have just been introduced to a ton of germs who are thankful they have found a new home. A little shot of apple cider vinegar mixed with some warm water solution through the coffee machine will help kill bacteria.

No. 6 - Kitchen Woes

Sponges, dishcloths, bathroom sinks, cutting boards and even the bathroom floor carry more germs than a toilet seat.

Here's a tip. If you want to sterilize your sponge, put it in the microwave for two minutes on full power. This will kill or inactivate 99 percent of bacteria, viruses or parasites. Clever, huh? I'm full of information.

No. 7 - Your Desk is Dirtier Than the Toilet

Surprise! The typical office desk area has 400 more times the amount of bacteria than the average toilet seat. Worst offenders: first, the office phone, then, the desk. Finally, the keyboard. Use a disinfectant wipe to clean everything before you sit down and start work.

No. 8 - Avoid Hand Shaking and Kissing

I know the kissing part sounds stupid and may be improbable for some, but try to avoid kissing during flu season, and most of all avoid shaking hands with everyone.

Howie Mandel, host of "Deal or No Deal," says he hasn't shaken anyone's hand in five years. I try my best not to shake hands, either. Sometimes it's unavoidable. Never shake hands with a politician.

While there are many steps in preventing disease, perhaps the most important is to wash your hands frequently. Scrub your hands with warm water and soap for at least 15 to 20 seconds after using the bathroom, eating, working, playing outdoors, playing with pets, coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Anything less than 15 seconds won't do the job.

Here's a startling statistic. Incredibly, 95 percent of people say they wash their hands after using the bathroom, but only 67 percent really do it. Worse, only 33 percent bother to use soap, and only 16 percent wash their hands long enough to remove germs.

One last caveat. Many are on the "antibacterial craze," using soaps and wipes that kill germs. Dr. Russell Blaylock of the Blaylock Institute suggests occasional use of these products are fine, but frequent use may be bad. Why? The anti-bacterial also kills the good bacteria on your skin that your body needs to defend itself against the bad bacteria.

Several months ago when I thought about writing this article, I decided to do my own test as to how "germ-laden" some handles really might be. On a Monday morning, I sat in my car outside the main post office in a city with a population of 43,000 and made note of how many visitors touched the door handles with no protection - just a bare hand.

After one hour (and five dimes in the parking meter) I noted 77 men, women and young people, some with kids, pulling on the handle going and coming. Several had bad colds and a few others sneezed as they entered as well. How many ended up sick, I haven't a clue. But if you had been sitting next to me watching, you would never touch a post office door handle - or any other outdoor or indoor handle - again without using your elbow, foot, tissue or antibacterial wipe, or wait until some person opened the door so you could sneak through without touching any handles.

It taught me a lesson. Maybe it will give you pause for thought, too.