While you’re shopping this season, you may be exposing yourself to germs… like flu viruses, E. coli, and staph. They can make you sick.
A panel of experts ranked the worst germ hot spots at your local shopping center:
1. Restroom sinks
The filthiest area in a restroom is the sink. Bacteria, including E. coli, fester on the faucet and handles because people touch those surfaces right after using the toilet. Watch out for soap dispensers, too.
2. Food court tables
Even if you see the table being wiped down, that doesn’t mean it’s clean. The rags themselves can actually spread harmful bacteria such as E. coli if they are not changed and washed regularly.
3. Escalator handrails
During testing, experts found food, E. coli, urine, mucus, feces, and blood on escalator handrails… and where there is mucus, you may also find cold and flu viruses.
4. ATM keypads
After testing 38 ATMs, researchers found that each key contained an average of 1,200 germs, including E. coli and cold and flu viruses. The worst key of all? The "enter" button, because everyone has to touch it.
5. Toy stores
Toy stores can actually be germier than play areas, carousels, and other kid-friendly zones. Kids lick toys, roll them on their heads, and rub them on their faces, and all that leaves a plethora of germs on the toys.
6. Fitting rooms
You won’t pick up much from the hooks or the chair. The germ culprit? What you try on. After people try on clothing, skin cells and perspiration can accumulate on the inside. Both can serve as food for bacterial growth.
7. Gadget shops
While you’re playing around on that new smartphone, you could be picking up germs from the thousand people who tested it out before you. Most stores do clean their equipment, but they certainly don’t clean after each use.
8. Makeup samples
A 2005 study found that between 67 and 100% of makeup-counter testers were contaminated with bacteria, including staph, strep, and E. coli. This study shows us that someone was sick or went to the bathroom, didn’t wash their hands, and then stuck their finger in the sample.