Common Places That Can Get You Sick

It may not be possible to avoid germs entirely, but knowing which surfaces and locations are most likely to get you sick can help you protect yourself and others. Airplanes, daycares, and gyms are just a few of those common, high-traffic places which may expose us to illnesses such as a cold, food poisoning, or even a highly contagious virus like SARS-CoV-2.

With the ongoing shortage of healthcare providers, any steps the public can take to avoid illness and stay healthy can help ease the burden on these understaffed professionals. Students going to school to become RNs will learn not only to treat patients, but help educate them on basic hygiene practices that can alleviate the risks of visiting these high-contact environments. Ultimately, staying healthy and reducing the spread of disease is the responsibility of the whole community.

Consider each of the following places, and the precautions you should take:


Areas of a workspace that may contain more germs than others include office desks, conference tables, and break rooms. In a breakroom alone, there are several high-touch surfaces where germs may lie. Fridge handles, for instance, could be especially dirty.

Precautions might include wiping down your desk once a day alongside your computer, washing your hands frequently, and sanitizing when needed. Other measures that should be taken include ones that help the entire community. Employees should be encouraged to collectively clean the breakroom at least once a day. This involves wiping down the fridge handles, doorknobs, and microwave buttons, among other high-touch surfaces.


Schools can be a breeding ground for germs. Desks, door handles, and classroom toys are just a few of the items that germs can be found on. Faculty and staff must make sure not only to take precautions themselves, but to enforce healthy practices among their students as well.

Faculty or students should wipe down desks at the end of every day, or between classes during cold and flu season. If possible, teachers should get their students in on the activity, incorporating health and wellbeing into an exercise by which students clean their personal spaces. Students should also be encouraged to cover their coughs, wash their hands frequently, and use hand sanitizer after classroom activities or recess.

Public health and community nurses are trained in mitigating the spread of illness as well as informing communities such as student bodies on preventative measures. With the help of these certified professionals, faculty and staff can set children on a path to proper hygiene.  

Public Restrooms

Public restrooms can be teeming with germs. The toilet handles, soap dispensers, faucets, and doors alike can be covered in microscopic bacteria just waiting to make contact with your skin. While many public restrooms offer automatic flushing toilets and soap dispensers, this is not the case for all of them. Public restrooms also don’t always have doors you can push open to exit. This means even if you wash your hands, you may have to expose yourself to yet another source of germs.

People should make sure to wash their hands after using a public restroom, as well as use a paper towel to touch any dirty surface that can’t be avoided. For instance, use a clean paper towel to turn off the sink, open the door, or flush the toilet.

The Bank

A plethora of people walk in and out of a bank on any given day. Many of those people are going to cash a check, make a money withdrawal, or sit in on an appointment with a financial adviser. Each of these activities can spread germs and, with the number of people in a bank on a given day, there is no downplaying their spread.

Money is one of the dirtiest items we come in contact with on a daily basis. Money can contain hundreds of species of microorganisms, considering there’s not an easy way of knowing who last touched it, where it last came from, and how long it’s been in circulation.

In a 2017 study from the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found a microbial population consisting of Propionibacterium acnes, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Micrococcus luteus, among others. While the most abundant traces found in the study were acne-causing bacteria, money is also known to contain traces of cocaine, DNA from pets, and various viruses as well.

The Gym

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many people that their local gym is one of the dirtiest places in town. However, it may be hard to realize just how dirty gyms can be. According to a study conducted by FitRated, free weights at a gym contain 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Other equipment inspected in the study included the treadmill and the exercise bike which had 74 and 39 times more bacteria than a water faucet and a reusable cafeteria tray, respectively.

Gym-goers should always wipe down equipment before and after they use it. They should also avoid touching their face, use only clean towels to wipe their face, and stay home if they’re experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms.

The Grocery Store

Many parts of the grocery store may contain bacteria that are harmful to your health, including the shopping carts. The handles, seats, and cup holders found on carts can carry any number of germs on any given day. Stores may offer anti-bacterial wipes when you walk in so that you may wipe down your carts prior to using them. If your local grocery store doesn’t offer this, make it a point to bring your own.

Packages of raw meat are another item customers should be wary of when handling. According to the CDC, raw meats are one of the foods most likely to cause food poisoning. This is because they may contain salmonella or E. coli, both of which are exceedingly harmful to your health. Be sure to place packages of raw meat in their own separate bags or containers.

Grocery store checkouts are another area often teeming with bacteria. The conveyor belts, checkout dividers, and card swipers are crawling with germs. Avoid exposure to these germs by washing your hands before putting away everything you bought.

Daycare Centers

With a variety of high-touch surfaces and children who have not yet mastered hygienic practices, daycare centers are a breeding ground for germs. According to MedlinePlus, children who attend daycare are far more likely to contract an illness than children who don’t. On the other hand, exposure to germs can strengthen children’s’ immune systems, making their bodies more adept at fighting any potential illness they may develop.

People who work at daycare centers must frequently wipe down toys, mats, and other items commonly used by children in order to help mitigate the spread of harmful bacteria. This will ensure not only the children’s’ health, but also the employees’. Children should also be encouraged to wash their hands before snack, lunch, or other similar activities, and parents should encourage their children to wash their hands once they’ve come home.

Public Transportation

Public transportation can also expose people to a multitude of germs. Buses, trains, and taxis easily become crowded in larger cities or during rush hours, making the transmission of viruses and bacteria more likely. However, people may be able to negate catching a cold or coming in contact with any other illness by taking a few precautions.

Carrying hand sanitizer, for instance, is always a good idea. In congested trains or buses, you may have to hold on to a handle that is likely covered in germs. Sanitizing your hands when exiting these vehicles should keep you clear of any potential bacteria that your hands were exposed to. Although hand sanitizer is highly effective, people should still resist touching their face, especially after taking public transportation.


Germs often thrive in close quarters, making airplanes a perfect spot for them to multiply. Sitting next to someone with a bad cough or using the tray table without wiping it down first are common ways you may come in contact with germs on an airplane. The lavatory especially can be filled with bacteria. Other parts of the plane to be wary of include the seat belts, air vents, and seatback pockets.

Additionally, sitting in an aisle seat is considered to pose more risk to your health. According to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, people who sat in aisle seats were much more likely to have contracted the norovirus than those who sat in windows seats.  

You should be sure to take proper precautions on your flight such as thoroughly washing your hands, using hand sanitizer when needed, and avoiding coming into contact with people who are potentially sick.

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