- Bacteria is impossible to get away from but we shouldn’t live in fear of it either.
- According to professor Dr. Jennifer Gardy most bacteria is harmless and being exposed to it can actually help us build immunity and stay healthier.
- The best defence against harmful bacteria is common sense and washing your hands with soap and water.
It’s bacteria’s world, and we’re just living in it. According to research, there are over one trillion species of microbes living on earth. But as contaminated and terrifying as that may make you feel, you really shouldn’t sweat it.
“Bacteria are everywhere,” explained Dr. Jennifer Gardy, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, a senior scientist at the BC Centre for Disease Control, and author of “It’s Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes.”
“They’re mostly harmless and often helpful. We shouldn’t be afraid of bacteria because that leads to overzealous hygiene, which isn’t good either. Truthfully, very few people actually get sick from touching things – it’s more human-to-human contact or ingesting something carrying a pathogen,” she tells INSIDER.
But, even though bacteria can’t hurt us as much as we may have originally thought, Gardy still stresses the importance of washing hands. “Soap, water, and common sense are your best defence against the handful of bugs that you might encounter out there,” she said. And if you can’t wash your hands keep in mind that a little bacteria is actually helpful.
“Being exposed to bacteria is a good thing – bacteria keeps our immune system busy; if it’s not busy, it can start to turn on us, attacking our own cells. This is why autoimmune diseases are so prevalent in countries where people are fastidiously clean,” she explained
So, as unnerving as the list below may make you feel, don’t walk around using hand sanitizer on your hands all the time, that’s probably worse than the bacteria itself.
Your kitchen sponges should be changed often.
When you think about it, kitchen sponges are pretty nasty. A study published last year revealed that because of the density of a kitchen sponge it can harbour much more bacteria than originally thought.
But, even though you may have been washing your dishes with bacteria incubators the researchers stress the study was meant to raise awareness, not fear. So, just change your sponges every so often and you’ll be fine.
Most of the bacteria on the top of your cell phone is harmless.
A scientist at the University of Arizona found that cell phones are ten times dirtier than toilet seats. No matter how clean you think you are, human skin carries tons of microbes naturally, plus things get transferred from your hands and mouth onto your phone as well. But again, there’s no need to impulsively wipe your cell phone down with anti-bacterial wipes after every call or text – the majority of the bacteria is harmless.
Plastic restaurant menus are nearly impossible to keep clean.
As much as restaurants try and keep their menus clean, the amount of hands that touch menus daily makes it nearly impossible to keep them 100% bacteria free. Although one thing you can do is wash or sanitize your hands right after you give your order so anything foreign from the menu won’t hang out on your hands.
Your toothbrush heads also have the 700 strains of bacteria that your mouth has.
Over 700 strains of bacteria have been known to live inside the human mouth, so you can just imagine many land on your toothbrush head. Just like it’s necessary to change your sponges around, it’s even more important to switch your toothbrush. According to the American Dental Association, it should be every three to four months.
The buttons on an elevator are something everyone has touched.
If someone else touched it, just assume it’s filthy – and elevator buttons are no exception. One 2014 study found that the elevator buttons in hospitals were dirtier than the toilets in the hospital bathrooms.
The gas pump handle is probably the dirtiest thing you’ll touch on your way to work.
If you live in a state where you pump your own gas beware, gas pump handles are one of the top filthiest things we touch. According to a study conducted by the hygiene giant Kimberly-Clark, gas pump handles were the number one dirtiest thing people touch on their way to work.
You should use sanitizing wipes for shopping cart handles.
Mega-stores and grocery markets are teeming with bacteria, which doesn’t bode well when you’re food shopping, but that shouldn’t deter you from your grocery store run. Some stores today have sanitizing wipes at their entrance to wipe down the cart handles.
Public doorknobs spread lots of bacteria.
Public doorknobs are pretty dirty. Human hands are the biggest germ spreaders and since we’re using them to open doors, we’re spreading bacteria everywhere. That’s why it’s so important to wash your hands often, especially if you have a cold or a runny nose.
Yoga mats at the gym might have some infectious bacteria.
There’s nothing better than a yoga sweat session, but when it comes it with a side of infectious bacteria, it may not be so great. From all the sweating and breathing done on the mat, they are truly a bacteria breeding ground. That’s why it’s best to have your own and keep it clean to your standards, at least this way you’re only sweating on your own bacteria, not someone else’s.
Your computer keyboard is mysteriously full of bacteria.
We don’t really think about computer keyboards as being dirty, but they’re actually one of the most filthy places in your home or office. One study found bacteria linked to the stomach flu and other ailments could live from an hour up to a day on your keyboard.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.