"Avoiding Germs in Public Places Such as Restaurants, Gym, Etc"If you didn’t have to go out in public, you’d almost never get sick. Places where large numbers of people gather — some of them sick or carrying germs that haven’t yet rendered them ill — are epicenters for the spread of illness. If you’re not feeling well, it’s probably because you shared an intimate space with someone else who was sick, or shared a surface with them or sat where they were sitting after they got up.

Follow these tips for avoiding germs in public places.

The Biggest Hazards

Reader’s Digest compiled an exhaustive list of the places you’re most likely to pick up germs or leave them behind. Although some of them can’t be avoided, be aware when you’re in contact with anything on this list. Try not to touch your face immediately after and, if you carry sanitizer, you’ll want to use it here.


The top 10 hazards are: handrails, grocery cart handles, restaurant menus, money — especially right out of a cash register, light switches, salt-and-pepper shakers in restaurants, salad bars, ATM machines, exercise equipment, and water fountains.

Keep Your Hands Out of the Cookie Jar

As a general rule of thumb, don’t eat anything communal. Cookie jars, brownie plates, and the candy bowl at the office are all nesting grounds for germs. Look who was the last person to reach in and grab a cookie. Would you lick their hand? Then don’t go in after them.

Most of all, avoid the filthiest of all communal snacks. No matter how hungry — or buzzed — you are, never reach for the beer nuts at a bar.

No Garnish, Please

Rum and Cokes come with a lime. Water is often served with a lemon. Ice cream brings a maraschino cherry — unless you specify not to include one.

Even if the bartender serves your garnish with tongs, which is rare, the fruit was cut and displayed with human hands. You have no idea if the fruit was cleaned or even rinsed, or how long it’s been sitting out. A garnish adds almost nothing to most drinks. Ask for it without one.

The Versatile Napkin

Napkins aren’t just for cleaning dirty hands; they’re for keeping them sterile in the first place. Napkins — or tissues or paper towels — are perfect for putting a barrier between you and germs. Hold one in your hand when opening doors — especially bathroom doors, touching soap dispensers (the last thing someone with dirty hands touched before they washed them), using condiment pumps at a fast-food place, or grabbing a handrail on a train.

It’s impossible to avoid public places altogether, but when you’re out, it’s important to know which places and surfaces are the most likely to bring germs. Get to know them and how to protect yourself.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes on a variety of topics, including profiling prominent businesspeople such as Steve Wynn .

Photo:  Grocery cart handles can be magnets for germs.