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It’s flu and cold season.  Avoiding germs helps us avoid the flu and colds, so where are the germs lurking?  You might be surprised to find where you can encounter the most germs.

 

  • Home: Your kitchen is the germiest place. It has more bacteria than your bathrooms due to the germs on raw meat and produce.  Clean and disinfect or sanitize your kitchen sink often.  If you use a sponge, be sure to run it through the dishwasher after each use.  Also, make sure to disinfect your kitchen counter-tops.  Cold and flu germs can usually remain active on stainless steel, plastic and similar hard surfaces longer than on fabric or other types of soft surfaces. iphone-37856__340
  • Cellphone: Since we carry our cellphones everywhere, they are usually loaded with bacteria including viruses like the flu.  Frequently clean your smartphone with an alcohol-free antiseptic wipe. (Alcohol is not good for your screen.)
  • Purse: Do you hang your purse or set it on the floor?  Floors are really dirty places, especially restroom floors. Hang your purse on a hook or the back of a chair when possible, never put your purse on the kitchen counter, and regularly wipe your purse with a disinfectant wipe.
  • Workplace: You may think the worst place is the restroom, but the ground-floor elevator will probably beat it out for the germiest place.  Another place is the break room- especially the coffee pot handle and the water dispenser.  Wash your hand as soon as you can after touching either one of these items. menu
  • Restaurants: Guess what everyone touches?  The menu has the most bacteria.  Thus, after ordering your food, go to the restroom and wash your hands or take some hand sanitizer and use it before eating.
  • Grocery Stores: If you guessed the grocery cart, you are right.  Use a disinfecting wipe on the handles.  If you use reusable grocery bags, put them on the floor, not the kitchen counter, and wash them often in hot water and bleach.  Always wash your hands or sanitize them after shopping.

Washing your hands often with soap and water is the key to avoiding getting sick. hands-2238235__340 This is the best way to reduce the germs you are exposed to. Be sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds and build up a lather before rinsing.

And remember, eating nutritious food and being physically active will also help you stay healthy and fight infections.

Hope you avoid the flu and colds this season!

 

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County

 

References:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2018).  Preventive Steps.  Available at  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm

Leamy, E. (2017). The Most Germ-Infested Places You Encounter Every Day – and How to Avoid Getting Sick. The Washington Post.  Available at https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/17/the-most-germ-infested-places-you-encounter-every-day-and-how-to-avoid-getting-sick/

Steckelberg, J. M. (2015).  Flu Germs:  How Long Can They Live Outside the Body?  Mayo Clinic.  Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/expert-answers/infectious-disease/faq-20057907.

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Many of us share our cellphone number without a second thought.   Yet, our cellphone number is linked to private information maintained by many companies and business transactions conducted with our cell phone. These include medical records, business contacts, social networks, banks and money lenders.  These companies look at patterns to determine what we might buy, check online, or even watch on television.

Unlike our Social Security number, our cellphone number does not have to be kept private by companies.  We have learned we need to protect our Social Security number and not give it out randomly.  However, if asked most of us share our cellphone number without a second thought, especially if we are completing a business form.

Unlike a home phone number that many people shared, the cellphone is an individual number for one person.  Youth may have the same cellphone number for the rest of their lives, making it easy for someone to get lots of information quickly.  Austin Berglas, a former F.B. I. agent said a cellphone number is often more useful than a Social Security number, as the cellphone number is tied to so many databases, and the device is almost always with you.   No one else will ever be given the same Social Security number you have, but if you give up your phone number it will probably be resigned to someone else.  That person could get text messages for you using that phone number.

Many banks, payment systems like PayPal and other companies are using text messages with a temporary personal identification number to give people a way to borrow money or purchase an item.  This is a convenient feature for cellphone use, but what happens if the information is stolen?  .

What can we do to protect our phones?  These are some recommendations from some experts:

  1. Always have a strong password or use the fingerprint available on newer phones. Don’t share your password.
  2. Create a PIN number for your mobile phone account.
  3. Use the device auto-lock feature, so it is not staying open.iphone-37856__340
  4. Only download apps from your trusted app store.
  5. Set up remote wipe which can remotely wipe clean your phone if you lose your device.
  6. When on public WIFI, use a VPN.
  7. Update your phone and apps when updates are available. Don’t delay.
  8. Opt for the built-in encryption feature on your phone or install one.

A new app “Sideline” allows you to add a second number to your cellphone which you can give out instead of your personal number.  I am not experienced with this feature, but it could provide an option.  Think twice before you give out your cellphone.  Give them a work number instead, if possible.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Fayette County

Reviewer:  Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Mahoning County

References:

Coombs, C. (2016). The Latest Identity Theft Target: Your Cell Phone, Techlicious.  Available at http://www.techlicious.com/tip/everything-you-need-to-know-about-cell-phone-account-identity-theft/#.WIYcAKe3GkE.email

Lohr, S. (2016). A 10-Digit Key Code to Your Private Life:  Your Cellphone number.  The New York Times   Available at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/business/cellphone-number-social-security-number-10-digit-key-code-to-private-life.html?_r=0

Stringfellow, A. (2016). Cell Phone Security  30 Tech Experts Share Important Steps to Securing Your Smartphone.  TCC Verizon  Available at https://www.tccrocks.com/blog/cell-phone-security-tips/

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