Germ Prevention - PIH Health

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Published on March 05, 2015

Germ Prevention

Germ Prevention

Germs are microorganisms that can exist almost anywhere.  A germ is also known as a microbe, bacteria or even the slang term bug.  Most germs are not harmful but some can be annoying, uncomfortable or dangerous.  Harmful germs can cause viruses and infectious diseases. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid harmful germs.

How germs spread

  • Breathing.  Some germs spread through the air, so when someone sneezes, coughs or talks, they can spread germs.  When harmful germs are inhaled, they can cause illness.
  • Touching.  Touching a contaminated object or surface and then touching your eyes, mouth or a cut on your skin can cause an infection.
  • Eating or drinking.  Unwashed fruits and vegetables, or foods that are not cooked or stored properly, can contain harmful germs.
  • Being bitten.  Bites from animals or insects can cause an infection.  Even if the animal doesn’t look or act sick, it can carry germs.

Germ hot spots

Germs can live in a lot of different places, but there are some germ-friendly locations that might be unexpected.

  • Kitchen faucet.  The screen at the end of the faucet stays moist and is a good place for bacteria to grow.  It should be soaked in a diluted bleach solution once a week.
  • Rubber stopper in the kitchen sink.  The stopper should also be soaked in a diluted bleach solution once a week.
  • Welcome mat.  The bottoms of shoes contain a lot of bacteria.  The doormat should be sprayed with a disinfectant spray weekly.  
  • Vacuum cleaner.  The bag and brushes are full of germs.  Change the bag outdoors to keep germs from the air in the house and spray the brushes with disinfectant spray.
  • Dish towel.  Sponges harbor germs, but so do dish towels.  Clean up spills and messes with paper towels and use the dish towels for drying clean dishes only.
  • Condiment bottles at restaurants.  Use hand sanitizer or a disinfectant wipe to clean the bottle before you use it.  Germs can go right through napkins so they will not keep the germs away from your hand.
  • Cell phone.  The crevices on phone cases are hot spots for germs to hide.  Clean with a disinfecting wipe a few times a week.

Washing your hands

According to the Centers for Disease Control1, you should wash your hands at the following times:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Follow these steps to properly wash your hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.


The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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