TODAY   |  February 28, 2014

Tips on how to stop germs from spreading

TODAY contributor Dr. Roshini Raj joins us to chat about how to beat the bacteria, including the best ways to try to keep an open work space germ-free.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> cold and flu season are in full swing and germs are making their way through offices, schools and, of course, our homes.

>> that's right. we've asked a "today" contributor, assistant professor at langone medical center to give us unique tips on how to beat the bug. earlier, we had a report that doctors' stethoscopes were the germiest thing going.

>> i know. you go to the doctor to get better, you can get sick if they're not cleaning the stethoscope in between patients. that's a wake-up call for the doctors.

>> were you surprised by that?

>> no, i wasn't surprised at all. i think about it every time i put a stethoscope on the patients, i've got to clean it before the next one. we wash our hands, don't always think about the stethoscope. we should.

>> ask your doctor, have your cleaned your stethoscope lately?

>> in a couple of studies, first one found people in open work spaces have more sick days.

>> that's right. and they looked over a 12-month period. they had more sick days, they were in the open layout, which has encouraged a lot. they also foster germs, don't have as many walls separating the germs from your co-worker. and also, when someone comes over, they're crouching down into your space, might be touching your keyboard.

>> sharing food.

>> sharing.

>> we have reese's pieces downstairs and i watch people all day going in and in and in and eat.

>> absolutely. what can you do in your office space ? you want to make sure you do wipe down your desk space every day. and watch out for the communal area, the break room, the fridge, all of those things.

>> how long should you stay? should you call in sick the first day?

>> well, if you have a fever, for sure, you want to call in sick. and if it's not getting better. yeah, you don't want to infect everyone else. you can go right back to work.

>> let's move on to the home. where are we looking for germs there?

>> so, first of all, the sponge is probably the worst. in your kitchen sink .

>> the used sponges?

>> well, you kind of need to use them at some point, but you need to replace them every week. and zap them in the microwave for two minutes, that will get rid of 99% of germs every day. or once a week, soak it in a bleach solution.

>> i like this next one. make sure your clean your cleaning supplies.

>> yes, absolutely. your mops and your brooms and your sponges and rags, rags you can throw in the washing machine. you definitely need to clean those. and also in the home, you have to look out for the switches, light switches . no one thinks about that. all the handles, the faucet handles. if there's a knob that you can remove on your stove, remove it, clean it, and put them back.

>> the happiest and germiest places.

>> they sure are.

>> parents know that. so in the schools, one of the worst is the water fountain . especially for little kids. they're crouching up there, can barely reach it, their mouth is touching it, you want to advise your kids, stay away from the water fountain , use a water bottle instead. and a stainless steel one, as well. if they are going to use a water fountain , instruct them they should definitely let the stream go for at least, you know, ten seconds before they put their mouth on it. that will flush out those germs right there.

>> and i did it as a kid -- right on.

>> i know.

>> and that's why it's a bad idea.

>> and before we go, the doctors office. you go to get better and we kind of touched on that earlier.

>> but you really want. it's not a bad idea to ask your doctor, did you wash your hands before you came in? i know, we have little -- we have little buttons that say ask me if i wash my hands. we do that at nyu because it is important. for all of these things, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face. this is one habit you should teach your kids not to do and many adults do it.

>> we're a danger to ourselves.

>> you touch a doorknob and do this all the time or rubbing your eyes or biting your fingers is a no-no.

>> i hate going to the pediatrician office and try to keep my kids from playing with the toys. sick kids playing with toys.

>> i know, that's where the ipad comes in very handy, i agree.