Thanks to Prevention Magazine for this list of the 5 places in a restaurant that carry the most germs. I think I might just start taking a bottle of hand sanitizer with me when I go out!
1. Restaurant Menus
Have you ever seen anyone wash a menu? Probably not. A study in the Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces. If it's a popular restaurant, hundreds of people could be handling the menus — and passing their germs on to you. Never let a menu touch your plate or silverware, and be sure to wash your hands after you place your order.
2. Lemon Wedges
According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70 percent of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes. When the researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants, they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons they secured, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria. Tell your server that you'd prefer your beverage sans fruit. Why risk it?
3. Condiment Dispensers
It's the rare eatery that regularly cleans its condiment containers. And the reality is that many people don't wash their hands before eating, says Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., a germs specialist and public health professor at the University of Arizona. So while you may be diligent, the guy who poured the ketchup before you may not have been, which means his germs are now on your fingers — and your fries. Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the condiment bottle or use a disinfectant wipe before you grab it.
4. Restroom Door Handles
Don't think you can escape the restroom without touching the door handle? Palm a spare paper towel after you wash up and use it to grasp the handle. Yes, other patrons may think you're a germ-phobe — but you'll never see them again, and you're the one who won't get sick.
5. Soap Dispensers
About 25 percent of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria. Soap that harbors bacteria may seem ironic, but that's exactly what a University of Arizona study found. "Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria grow as the soap scum builds up," says microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., who directed the study. "And the bottoms are touched by dirty hands, so there's a continuous culture feeding millions of bacteria." Be sure to scrub your hands thoroughly with plenty of hot water for 15 to 20 seconds — and if you happen to have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, use that, too.