By Dr. Peter Kadile
I have discussed and educated about the importance of regular hand washing in the prevention of getting sick or spreading disease.
Hey Doc, my wife is insistent that we take the bedspread or comforter off the bed when we stay at a hotel because it is dirty and rarely washed. Even when we stay at a five star hotel? – James, Rancho Mirage
James, it may be easy to forget about preventive hygiene when staying at a hotel, especially a more expensive five star hotel, but a recent study conducted by the online trip calculator service, Travelmath, found that three star hotels were cleaner than five star hotels. The dirtiest surfaces in the hotels were found to be on the bathroom counter, remote control, desk and phone. It’s unclear why the five star hotels harbored more bacteria on the surfaces studied, but just because you pay more for a more luxurious hotel doesn’t necessarily mean it is cleaner. As far as the bedspread is concerned, it rarely gets thrown in the daily wash with the bedsheets. A good routine to perform every time you stay at a hotel would be to immediately remove the bedspread and put it in the closet. Wipe down the bathroom counter, desk, phone and remote control with antibacterial wipes or spray. Since the remote is the most commonly handled item in the hotel room, consider placing it in a clear plastic bag before you use it.
Dear Dr. Kadile, I work in the fitness industry as a personal trainer. I frequently work at several different gyms with different clients in one day. Is using hand sanitizer between gyms and clients as good as washing my hands? – Lyn, La Quinta
Lyn, gyms and fitness equipment are notoriously full of nasty germs, since not everybody uses a towel or wipes down the equipment after using it.
Hand sanitizers are generally made up of alcohol, glycerin, water and maybe some fragrance added. The alcohol is the main germ fighter. A good hand sanitizer should have an alcohol concentration of at least 60 percent. Hand sanitizer is beneficial if hand washing is unavailable, but it is not as good. Using a hand sanitizer is good in addition to hand washing. Really, the best way to clean your hands is with soap and water. Washing gets rid of most germs and breaks up oils and removes dirt, which can hide bacteria and germs. Hand sanitizer simply works on the surface of the skin, whereas hand washing will get the water and soap into the small cracks and crevices of the skin. You’ve got the right idea in cleansing your hands between clients, but hand washing is better than hand sanitizer.
A common carrier of germs that we rarely think about is our cell phone. Have you ever used your cell phone in the restroom? Have you ever seen somebody using their cell phone in the restroom? Have you heard a person talking on the cell phone while they used the bathroom, then set their cell phone on the bath room counter, wash their hands, then pick it up again? Disgusting when you think about it.
Whatever our hands touch, our cell phones touch. Cell phones have been found to have 18 times more harmful bacteria than a public restroom. Our phones get warm from the battery and we also tend to store them in warm, dark places such as purses and pockets. The warmth or heat can make them good breeding grounds for bacteria. So if you are diligent about washing your hands, don’t forget about your cell phone! Rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs can be used to clean your phone and there are also cleaning products specifically available for use on cell phones.