Jesus & Germs are Everywhere | How to Stay Well When Nobody Else Is

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell

woman in heart sweater leaning against a tree

Last week, in February’s SO in the KNOW post, I shared my funny guest bathroom towel that always gets a laugh. It says, “Wash your hands and say your prayers, because Jesus and germs are everywhere. Sigh. It’s so true. I mean, I’m glad about the first part, but it seems like a constant battle to combat those omnipresent germs and stay well this time of year!

As we age, getting sick becomes a greater concern for all of us, especially if you’re one of the 50 million Americans that suffer from an autoimmune disease (75% of those are women). Oh, you may have gotten your flu shot, and you may think you’ve got the handwashing thing down, and maybe you even eat, sleep, and exercise the way you should, but you’ve probably overlooked a few important considerations when it comes to wellness. Today, we’re talking all about germs and the hidden places they hide! I’m also sharing tips for ways to stay healthy—even when everyone around you is sick.

 

Germs Are Everywhere!

In the Kitchen

The Danger Zones:

  • Sink
  • Counters
  • Sponge

What You Can Do

Those handy-dandy disposable disinfectant wipes are ideal for cleaning your kitchen sink and counters, especially after cooking with raw meat or produce. Also, I hate to break it to you, but your sponge or dishcloth is probably filthy. If you use a sponge, microwave it for a minute or two to kill germs. If you prefer a dishcloth, change it out every single day, and wash used ones in hot water with bleach or a detergent with a bleach alternative.

 

In the Public Restroom

The Danger Zones:

  • Floor
  • Toilet paper dispenser
  • Flusher
  • Interior stall door handle
  • Faucet handles

The toilet seat that we are all so concerned about is actually pretty clean because people tend to use paper liners. When it comes to handwashing, studies show that only half the people who “wash” their hands in a public restroom use soap!

What You Can Do

Research shows that the first bathroom stall is the least visited, so be sure to choose that one. Once inside, know that the floor is the germiest spot, so avoid putting your handbag down on it at all costs. Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona (aka “Dr. Germ”), says about a third of women’s purses are contaminated with fecal material on the bottom, probably from the restroom floor. Wash your hands well. Studies have shown that it doesn’t matter if you dry them with paper towels or an air dryer—it’s the washing that counts.

woman in heart sweater looking towards her left

On Public Transportation

The Danger Zones:

  • Airplane seatbelt buckles and tray tables
  • Subway and bus grab poles and handles on backs of seats

According to Dr. Gerba, people who use public transportation (including airplanes) regularly are six times more likely to get sick than those who walk or drive, simply because they’re exposed to more people and their germs. Be sure to use a moisturizing hand sanitizer or wash your hands immediately after using public transportation.

 

At the Grocery Store

The Danger Zones:

  • Shopping cart handles
  • Fabric grocery bags
  • Styluses on payment machines

Fifty percent of shopping cart handles tested positive for E. coli bacteria in a recent study. It could have come from shopper’s hands, raw meat they put in their carts, or even babies’ diapers.

What You Can Do

Use the antibacterial wipes that stores provide and keep hand sanitizer in your purse and car to use after shopping. Fifty percent of reusable grocery bags also tested positive for E. coli. Be sure to place your reusable bags on the floor when you unload, rather than on the counter, and wash them frequently in hot water with bleach or a detergent with a bleach alternative.

woman in heart sweater with hand in hair

In Public Places

The Danger Zones:

  • Elevator buttons
  • Door handles
  • Doctor’s office sign-in pens
  • Styluses on payment machines (especially at the pharmacy)
  • The handle at the gas pump

It only makes sense that the sign-in pen at the doctor’s office would be positively swarming in germs! The same goes for the stylus on payment machines pretty much everywhere you use them—but especially at the pharmacy. Everybody who uses an elevator touches the ground floor button, so it can be a veritable petri dish of germs!

What You Can Do

At the doctor’s office, ask the receptionist if they clean the sign-in pen regularly and use the hand sanitizer that they (hopefully) provide after signing in. (Or do what I do and carry your own pen.) When it comes to the stylus at the payment machine, you’re pretty much stuck. Use hand sanitizer after using it. On an elevator, use your knuckles to press the buttons.

At the Office

The Danger Zones:

  • The office coffee pot
  • The refrigerator and microwave doors in the break room

According to Dr. Gerba’s study, the office coffee pot, buttons on the coffee machine, and even the lift-up handle on the coffee pod brewer were teeming with germs because everyone touches them and no one thinks about sanitizing them. The break room is the number one place where workplace germs spread.

What You Can Do

Wash your hands thoroughly after visiting the breakroom, and consider speaking to someone about having the regular professional cleaning service swab down the breakroom as well as the restroom.

At a Restaurant

The Danger Zones:

  • The menu
  • Seats

Don’t think that washing your hands before you leave home or right when you get to the restaurant is enough. Nope! Everybody touches the menu at a restaurant, and it’s filled with germs. Also, a recent study showed that the cloth used to wipe down the menus actually added germs!

What You Can Do

The best thing you can do is order your food from the menu, then excuse yourself to wash your hands.

On Your Stuff

The Danger Zones:

  • Your cell phone
  • Your purse
  • Your mail

If you wash your hands and then grab your cell phone or handbag, you may be defeating the purpose! We’ve already talked about the bottom of your purse, but the handles can get germy as well. Our phones are our constant companions, so they’re uniquely positioned to spread germs. Think of how often you’ve washed your hands, and then picked up your phone immediately afterward! It’s estimated that 95% of Americans have mobile phones of some kind now, so it only makes sense that viruses and germs have become more mobile too.

Also, watch out for items that come into your home. Assume incoming mail and packages have been touched by multiple people and been on some dirty surfaces. Assume the bottom of your shoes are filthy. (They are!)

What You Can Do

Give the handles, straps, and bottom of your handbag a once over with a disposable disinfectant wipe.

Remove shoes at the door and request that those entering your home do the same. Wash your hands well after handling your mail and opening packages, and consider using a nail brush to get into the crevices under and around your nails. Germs love to hide there!

 

When it comes to your phone, it’s time to get serious about killing germs. Disinfectant wipes can’t get into all of the crevices where microorganisms live and breed. One of the best-sellers on my Holiday Gift Guide this year was this combination mobile phone charger/sanitizer. It kills 99.99% of bacteria using UV rays, and it can sanitize any size phone, or whatever else fits inside. (Think earbuds, smart watches, keys, etc.) The UV light gets to the microorganisms that hide in crevices where even disinfectant wipes can’t reach.

 

Have you stayed well this winter? I hope so! What do you do to safeguard yourself when germs are everywhere?

 

My Look

women's navy blue booties with ruffle on back

I’ve gotten so many questions from y’all about these unique navy ruffle-back suede booties. They’re so comfy, and I’m thrilled that Nordstrom restocked them! I own them in black and white as well as navy. 🙂

 

woman in heart sweater walking

Leopard Heart Sweater (in red, navy sold out) | NYDJ Jeans | Navy Ruffle-Back Booties | Crystal Safety Pin Earrings | Nail Polish | Plumping Matte Lipstick in Rosewood 

 

I’ve been dying to show y’all this ¾-sleeve cashmere sweater! I love the trendy leopard heart, and it’s such a perfect weight for early spring! It’s from J.Crew, who, incidentally, has just released their swimsuit line, and there are so many cute ones. (Check them out here.) I paired my sweater with NYDJ tan jeans because I thought it photographed better, but when I tried it on with black jeans it looked tres chic!

It’s tough to see my crystal safety pin earrings in this photo, but trust me, they are precious! Bob gave them to me for my Birthday. My lipstick is one of City Lips matte colors called Rosewood. It’s so versatile because it can look pinkish or more coral, depending on what you wear with it. City Lips is my favorite brand of lipstick, and I especially love their matte colors. They stay put and won’t bleed into lines and wrinkles, but they never dry out my lips! (I believe in this brand so much, I wrote an entire post about them!) You can get 10% off your entire order at checkout with the code EMPTYNESTBLESSED, so be sure to take advantage of that if you order!

Blessings,

Photos by Megan Weaver.

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Suzy Mighell

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8 Comments

    1. Cathy,
      Right? There’s scary stuff in hiding in there! Thanks so much for your comment! xoxo Suzy

  1. Great information, Suzy! I have been on a germ warpath this winter! You gave me some insights that I haven’t thought about! One thing my daughter was told once at a mini hand washing tutorial was to be sure you give extra attention to your fingertips and right under your fingernails. She said it’s a hotspot for germs! Just thought I would pass that tip along! ~Kris

  2. Love this post! As a registered, licensed dietitian, I highly recommend Juice Plus, a whole food fruit and vegetable supplement, which is backed by 38 peer-reviewed research studies and proven to help balance/strengthen the immune system. I’ve had my family on it for 18 years and recommend it to all my clients and patients. Research is everything!

    1. Wendy,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I take Juice Plus, and my gastroenterologist does too! (Her endorsement was good enough for me!) xoxo Suzy

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