10 Germ-Infested Things Parents Touch All The Time (And How to Protect Your Kids)

Many parents seem to fall into one of two categories; the germ-fearing, hand sanitizing, "drop it and it’s trash" variety, and the “don’t worry, five-second rule" sort. No matter your approach to parenting, we all want our kids to be happy and healthy, but what if we told you that your hands could be the cause of the latest stomach flu to ravage your home? Or the reason that you haven’t slept for the last three nights is because you touched your youngest's face with dirty hands?

It’s a germy world out there, and, as parents, we are not immune. Check our the 10 germ-infested things that parents touch all the time and how to protect your family from all those gross bugs.

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10 Fast food Self Serve Kiosk

Many parents find themselves frequenting the local fast food restaurants more often than they care to admit. Whether they are drawn in by the lure of a peaceful coffee while their littles enjoy the play place or a child-friendly menu that offers a meal their kids may actually eat.  No matter what draws parents in, often the promise of quicker service makes the self-serve kiosk an attractive option. Many people can pick up more than a quick meal by touching the kiosk.

In fact, an investigation conducted by British newspaper Metro showed traces of fecal matter on every McDonald's kiosk they sampled. The investigation was done on eight restaurants across the UK. While feces was found on each kiosk sampled, others also produced a range of bacteria including Staphylococcus, a contagious strain that can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.

Easy Solution: Wash your hands before eating. This is an old fashioned rule that needs to come back in style.

9 Dish Sponge

To clean or not to clean? That is the constant battle every parent faces. While most parents would love to forego doing the dishes in favor of spending time with their kids, both men and women spend more than an hour on housework every day.

Unfortunately, the tools used to keep your home clean can actually harbor the most bacteria. A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports took a close look at the average kitchen sponge and discovered 362 types of bacteria at a density of 45 billion per square centimeter. So, while parents are trying to clean their counters or even wipe their children’s faces, they could be unknowingly spreading bacteria.

Easy solution: Place your damp sponge in the microwave on high for two minutes. The heat will kill harmful bacteria. Also, replace your sponge every one-two weeks. You can also opt for silicone sponges, which can go in the dishwasher.

8 Money

What is really in your wallet? Not only does money exchange countless hands each and every day, but with new technology making it easier for machines to accept dog eared bills, paper money stays in circulation longer and longer.

A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS ONE tested one dollar bills circulating around New York City. Along with hundreds of species of micro bacteria, they also found vaginal bacteria, microbes from mouths, and viruses from pets.

Easy solution: Carry less cash and store it well. Keep cash away from warm and damp areas that are ideal for bacteria to breed and always wash your hands after handling it.

7 Debit cards

Debit cards are a popular way to pay for everyday purchases. They are convenient, as they don’t require you to have the right amount of cash on hand. Many may assume that paying with plastic is an ideal way to keep their hands cleaner, but debit cards come with their own tricky issues. While smaller purchases may allow you to tap your card onto a reader to pay for purchases, it is not always available. Many cards have a maximum amount for their tap option, and larger purchases must be put in manually using a debit machine. This option still spreads bacteria since there are 18 times more bacteria on a touch screen than on a toilet handle

Simple solution: Dr. Asim Cheema of Your Doctors Online suggests that parents carry a stylus on them to use on touch screens instead of their fingers.

6 Self Check Out

Speaking of dirty touch screens, the grocery self-checkout is also a haven for bacteria. With more and more retailers turning to technology over a traditional cashier experience, the customer is often forced to get in there and get their hands dirty with a self-serve option.

Many people turning to the self-serve check out for the convenience factor may be surprised to learn that 50 percent of self-checkout touch screens had fecal bacteria on them. Even more concerning, some had MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a staph bacteria resistant to many of the antibiotics typically used to treat staph infections.

Simple solution: Save yourself the time and stress of a self check out and let a cashier help you with your purchase. If you must use this option always wash your hands or use antibacterial hand sanitizer as soon as possible. 

5 Doctor’s Office Pen

Many parents cringe at the thought of doing ‘hard time’ in the doctor’s office waiting room. Not only is it a gathering place for the sick, but you are often forced to spend long amounts of time waiting with your kids.

While many parents are wary of sitting next to a coughing stranger or letting their kids play with the communal waiting room toys, they are often unaware of one very real risk in the waiting room: the doctor’s office pen. A 2018 study determined that the pen on the clipboard of the doctor’s office actually has 46000 more bacteria than a toilet seat.

Easy solution: Avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor and try to limit those you need to bring with you. Wash hands well after signing into the office and bring your own toys for your kids to play with.

4 Mobile Phone

Chances are, if you own a smartphone, you probably take it everywhere with you, even into the bathroom. Let’s face it, for most parents, it’s the only break they get in their busy day. So now that we have determined that your phone is as attached to you as your kids, it’s time to ask an uncomfortable question: ‘how often do you clean it?’

Chances are, not enough. There are 18 times more bacteria on a touch screen than on a toilet handle and we wash our hands after each encounter with one of those. Not only are we touching our phones every day, but our kids love to put their hands all over them too.

Easy solution: Wipe down your phone daily and especially after each trip to the bathroom.

Related: Study Shows that a Parent's Cell Phone Addiction Affect's Their Child's Development

3 Purse/Diaper Bag

When most of us talk about cleaning our purse or diaper bag, we are referring to dumping out the mountain of diapers, wipes, half eaten snacks, wallet and keys that seem to find their way in and multiply.

We put our hands in and out of our purse or diaper bag several times a day, and yet the majority of us likely don’t ever think to actually clean the bag itself. Between spills, tiny hands, and trips to public washrooms, these bags are often a hot spot for bacteria.

Solution: While many bags can’t simply be thrown in the wash, they can be wiped down with antibacterial wipes. You can make your own antibacterial spray with a mixture of vinegar and water. Add essential oils if you want it to have a pleasant fragrance!

2 Shopping Carts

Grocery shopping with kids can be a task and a half. Not only do you have to worry and tantrums, food fights and avoiding nap time, but there is also a huge germ factor. A study by the University of Arizona of shopping carts on the US West Coast found that shopping carts had exponentially more bacteria on them per square inch than samples taken in a public washroom. While many parents use shopping cart covers to protect their babies, they are not always protecting themselves in the process.

Easy solution: Most grocers offer antibacterial wipes to clean your cart before you start shopping. You can also choose to carry your own.

1 Birthday Cake

This item on the list may make you think twice before accepting your next slice. While this item more often goes in your mouth than on your hands it is something parents are faced with on a regular basis.

While no birthday cake seems complete without candles, the act of blowing out candles increases the amount of bacteria on the cake exponentially. According to a study published in the Journal of Food Research, blowing out candles increased the average amount of bacteria on a birthday cake by 14%.

Easy solution: The good news is while the bacterial levels are increased, it is not usually with harmful bacteria. If you are concerned that the birthday person seems ill, you can always remove the icing from your cake or refuse a slice altogether.

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