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Ick factor alert! 5 little-known facts about germs

by Madelyn Fernstrom / / Source: TODAY

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Germs are everywhere and in so many forms, including bacteria, viruses and molds.

While it’s common knowledge that exposure to germs can lead to illnesses ranging from colds to stomach bugs, there are some steps you can take to help prevent the spread of germs in your personal space. Increase your germ smarts (and protect against illness) with these five little-known facts:

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1. Computer keyboards can have more germs than a public toilet.

Keys and spaces on a keyboard are prime breeding grounds for bacterial and viral growth. Some reports show five times more germs on a keyboard than on a public toilet (and these are likely cleaned more often!).

Clean your keyboard regularly with specialized wipes for electronics, and remove crumbs and dust with an “air duster” (canister of compressed air sprayed on the keyboard).

2. Toothbrush covers do not protect your brush from bacteria.

While it seems to make sense that covering your toothbrush would protect, the opposite is the case. With a cover on your brush, a more humid environment is created and more likely to encourage growth of germs. Wash your toothbrush when done, and allow it to air dry.

Make sure you store it away from the toilet (and keep that lid down!).

3. Light switches are among the cleanest spots in a hotel room.

While multiple reports look at clean and dirty places in a hotel room, among the cleanest are the light switches. The dirtiest tend to be the TV remote control and the telephone.

A good rule of thumb is to always wash your hands with soap and water, carry hand sanitizer, and bring along a box of wipes to swab down areas of general use in your hotel room — and anytime you are on the road.

 Lather up and wash for 20 seconds.

4. Hand sanitizer does not always replace soap and water washing.

Hand sanitizer is great when you’re not near a sink, and need to clean your hands. But given the choice of a spritz of sanitizer or good old soap and water, choose the soap and water route. But soap and water are only a better germ fighter when done properly.

Lather up and scrub hard for at least 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday twice), and wash between your fingers and the back of your hands.

Don’t skimp with the hand sanitizer either— cover the same hand areas as for soap and water.

5. Freezing food does not kill bacteria.

If you freeze foods that you suspect might be spoiled (or on their way), freezing them will not kill the bacteria already in the food. Freezing prevents further bacterial growth, but when you thaw it out, the bacteria continue to multiply and contaminate your food.

Avoid freezing foods left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, when bacterial growth escalates.

Follow Madelyn on twitter @drfernstrom.

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