Another unfortunate addition to the list? Hospital elevator buttons, a new study says. Researchers swabbed 120 elevator buttons and 96 toilet surfaces in three hospitals. Their findings, published in the Open Medicine journal,†might inspire you to put on a pair of medical gloves before hitting any elevator buttons. 61 percent of elevator buttons were colonized with bacteria, compared to 43 percent on toilet surfaces.
The good news? Most of the bugs found were harmless. But the risk is still there, study author Dr. Donald Redelmeier tells the Vancouver Sun. “They’re active really every moment of the day and they’re touched by multiple people and it’s almost always with ungloved hands,” he says, adding “They can’t be cleaned again and again and again, every second of the day. Once they’re clean, they don’t stay clean very long.”
Elevator buttons aren’t the only places you’ll find bacteria lurkingóprevious studies have found bacterial contamination on everything from lab coats and stethoscopes to computer keyboards and digital tablets where employees track patient data.
One thing you can do to keep your risk of transmitting bacteria down on any elevator? Make sure you’re washing your fingertips, especially the pointer finger on your dominant hand. “Often when people use a hand cleanser, they’re very good at washing their palms, but not their fingertips,” Dr. Redelmeier explains. “And yet most of the transmission does not occur in the middle of the hand, it occurs at the periphery of the hand.”