Brain and Body

Science Says These 4 Common Germaphobic Habits Are Basically Pointless

January 25, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

A woman cleans a window while wearing goggles and a medical mask

You can stop flushing public toilet handles with your foot.

The world is a magnificent place, but it’s also crawling with germs and bacteria on virtually every square inch of it — it’s understandable why many people are germaphobes. However, scientists have some unfortunate news: your germaphobic habits are probably pretty useless.

These are four of the most common germaphobe habits with the unfortunate scientific explanations behind their futile realities.

1. Pushing the toilet flusher with your foot

The flush handles in public bathrooms are undoubtedly a go-to hangout spot for germs, so pushing down the flusher with your shoe-protected foot rather than your bare hand seems like a no-brainer.

However, do you also somehow maneuver your foot to unlatch the bathroom door handle and kick it open to exit the stall? Probably not, and the people who used the stall before you and flushed with their hand also likely left their bacteria on the door handle.

So even if you’re kicking the toilet flusher, chances are you’ll still end up getting those public bathroom toilet germs on your hand anyway. Just make sure to wash your hands after the whole process.

2. Ditch your mini hand sanitizers

You likely heard about Norovirus in the recent weeks — the virus that was found in Chipotle’s food and sickened over 140 people in Boston. It turns out that pathogens like Norovirus and C. difficile (which can cause deadly diarrhea) are immune to sanitizing gels.

Since hand sanitizer doesn’t kill all germs, scientists recommend sticking with soap and water when you can. When it comes to common bacteria, however, hand sanitizers should work fine as long as they contain at least 60 percent alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the CDC says washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce microbes in most cases, and that if hands are visibly greasy or dirty, hand sanitizers may not be as effective anyway.

SEE ALSO: If Being Too Clean Makes Us Sick, Why Isn't Getting Dirty the Solution?

3. Toilet-seat covers are just unnecessary

Toilet seats were once thought to be able to spread sexually transmitted diseases, and a husband and wife patented their invention of toilet-seat covers back in the 1920s. However, science has come a long way since the ‘20s, and now we know that viruses like HIV and herpes don’t survive very well outside of the human body — like say, on a toilet seat.

This doesn’t mean that toilet seats are squeaky clean. They can still carry certain viruses and bacteria, like streptococcus and E. coli, but in order to get infected, you’d have to touch your mouth or eyes with your unwashed hands. So wash your hands after doing your business, and you’ll likely be in the clear.

4. Holding your breath when someone near you coughs

The only thing worse than crowded public transport is crowded public transport during sick season. And of course, you’re sitting right next to the guy who’s coughing up a storm and sneezing like there’s no tomorrow.

First instinct? Hold your breath and make sure you inhale none of his icky germs.

It would be great if that tactic was effective, but unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that holding your breath will protect you from the germs coming into contact with your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Sneezing or coughing without covering your mouth or nose essentially shoots bacteria into the air, so if you’re the person that’s sick on public transport, be sure to put those kindergarten hygiene lessons into good use and cover yourself.

To end this article on a bit more of a cheerful note, scientists recently developed a new light-activated nanoparticle treatment that killed over 90 percent of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Although germs, viruses, and bacteria will always be around us, hopefully scientists will continue to develop innovative treatments to combat them.

h/t: Business Insider

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