Several studies have shown that doorknobs and TV remote controls are two major hotbeds of germs that can cause illnesses to anyone who comes in contact with them. Thus, aside from shaking a sick person’s hand, touching “dirty” surfaces can also lead to infectious diseases.
A study was conducted among 30 adults with early symptoms of the cold in which 16 of them are found to be positive for rhinovirus. Rhinovirus causes about half of all colds. They were then asked to name 10 places in their home they have touched in the last 18 hours. It was found that many touched areas like refrigerator doors and handles about 40% of the time. Other places they touched were doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, bathroom faucets and phones.
The researchers then contaminated surfaces with participants’ mucus and then tested to see whether rhinovirus stuck to their fingers when they switched on lights, answered phones and did other tasks. More than half of the participants got the virus on their fingertips 48 hours after the mucus was smeared.
In a separate study, it was found that toys can also be hotbeds for germs that can affect children. Dr. Diane Pappas and Owen Hendley went germ-hunting on toys in five pediatricians’ offices in Fairfax, Va., three times during last year’s cold and flu season. They found out that there were fragments of cold viruses in 20% of the toys coming from a sick child, well child and from kids who are allowed to choose toys after being good for a shot.
“Mothers know this,” Hendley said. “They say, ‘We go to a doctor for a well-child checkup, the kids play with the toys and two days later they have a cold.’”
Though there is no proof that such germs can harm kids, their presence suggests a risk of contracting infectious diseases. Hence, experts strongly recommend frequent hand washing, the use of surgical masks whenever appropriate, as well as the use of hand sanitiser to avoid spreading of germs.
One thousand students who lived in dorms tested these measures for six weeks during the 2006-07 flu seasons. They were divided into three groups: those who wore masks, those who wore masks and used hand sanitiser, and those who did neither.
The two groups who used masks reported 10% to 50% fewer cold symptoms (cough, fever, chills), than the group who used neither.
So, if you want to stay healthy and well, you know what to do when you realise everyone around you is falling sick.