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Some hot spots for germs where extra hand hygiene may be called for.

Most of us can think of some hot spots for germs such as public bathrooms and are in the habit of responding with good hand hygiene. But some places that harbor germs may not be as obvious. As we head into cold and flu season, let’s take a look at just a few locations where germs may be hiding in plain sight.

Gas pumps, hotel TV remotes, and airplane tray tables All three of these surfaces test high for a variety of germs. They are easy to forget about and it’s a good idea to assume that they may have been overlooked by others as well. Carry some hand disinfectant with you to use after contact and if possible, wipe the surface with disinfectant before you touch it.

Purses and wallets We take our purses and wallets with us most everywhere we go, and we can forget that where we put them or what we put in them can be full of germs. The bottom of purses is a common way those germs get a free ride, as are the contents of our wallets. Be aware and intentional about where you put your purse and wipe it down with disinfectant on a regular basis. And remember to wash your hands after handling the contents of your wallet.

Rails, door handles, and elevator buttons Frequently touched surfaces such as hand rails and door handles are likely suspects for germs, so disinfecting your hands after touching them is always wise. Did you know that elevator buttons can also be full of germs. In addition to hand hygiene, one tip is to avoid pushing the button with your finger. Try using your knuckle instead.

Restaurant menus Of course, restaurants hold many opportunities for exposure to germs, and disinfecting  your hands before you eat should be standard procedure. But one place germs may be hiding is the first thing put into our hands when we are seated — the menu. It’s a good idea to avoid letting your menu touch your plate or silverware as you ponder the choices.

Shopping carts Noticing places that many hands have touched is a good way to avoid germs, and this is one you may have already thought of. Swab the handle with a disinfectant wipe before grabbing hold. Stores are starting to provide these wipes, so look around for a dispenser.

Office break rooms Coming to work when you are sick is a surefire way to share germs. But just because no one is coughing or sneezing in the next cubicle doesn’t mean that those germs aren’t hanging around. For our last look at sometimes forgotten hiding places for germs, let’s peek into the breakroom. Notice any spots where many hands have touched? The buttons on the microwave and the handles on the coffee pot, sink, and refrigerator are good guesses. And by now, you know the drill.

Even if you take steps to avoid coming into contact with germs, chances are you will encounter some. One of your best defenses against getting sick is regular hand washing. Wash your hands often, using soap and water, for at least 15 seconds to clean away viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing germs. And for those times when you can’t readily wash your hands, have alcohol-based hand sanitizer rub with you to use.

You can also reduce your risk of getting sick when you encounter germs by getting the flu vaccine and any other vaccines that your health care provider recommends. This fall, Cheshire Medical Center is hosting Flu Shot Clinics available for established primary care patients. Learn more.