7 Stupid Things People Do to Prevent Germs

Nobody wants to get sick, and there are plenty of real, doctor-recommended ways to prevent catching a bug. But not every technique that youíve heard of is a good one. Read on for some of the most ineffective at best and even unsafe ways to prevent germs.

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1. Holding Your Breath After Someone Sneezes.†

Holding your breath when someone is sneezing or coughing? Donít even bother. Unless your reflexes are verging on superhuman levels, by the time they let it out, youíre already exposed.

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2. Kicking the Toilet Handle

Thereís pretty much no way to avoid coming into contact with SOME germs in the bathroom. And, if youíre going to wash your hands well after you flush, just go ahead and use your hands to flush the toilet.

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3. Hovering Over the Toilet Seat.

Donít you love it when you enter a public bathroom stall and the seat is covered in other peopleís seat covers and suspicious-looking wet spots? Not only is this totally, totally rude for other patrons and the people that have to clean it up, itís also not really helping you avoid much in the way of germs. And, anyway, all that stuff about catching viruses and STIs from a toilet stall? Itís not nearly as likely as many people think.

Hovering over a toilet seat doesnít really help either because, though you donít come in direct contact with the seat, as soon as you flush, whatever germs are in the toilet enter the air.

The chances of getting sick in any way at all from a toilet seat are so ridiculously small that your best option is to just plop your butt on the seat.


4. Using the Back of Your Hand.

It’s technically true that when you use the back of your hand to touch things, you typically expose less skin to germ-infested areas than you otherwise would. But that doesnít necessarily make it much more effective at preventing germ contamination, because there is so little of a difference in germ exposure that itís really not worth the effort.

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5. Using Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers were invented for ó and are still used by ó nurses and doctors. And for them, itís totally and completely necessary. If youíre not about to perform open-heart surgery, though, hand sanitizers can actually do more harm than good. Thatís because your body does†need some germs to maintain a healthy immune system, and hand sanitizer doesnít discriminate. It also canít kill all the germs on your hands. Another problem? Hand sanitizer doesnít work as well as soap and water on visibly dirty hands.

Use hand sanitizer only when you donít have access to soap and water. Otherwise? Head to the sink.


6. Wearing Gloves.

Hereís an all-too-obvious point: if you wear gloves, the gloves will have all that gross germy stuff on them, not you. Unless you know the exact protocol for removing them, youíre probably going to have skin contact with those germs anyway. Wearing gloves for too long can lead to contamination, and, odds are, a glove wearer will eventually touch their face no matter how much they resist.

To be clear, gloves do provide some protection from germs, and proper removal will help you avoid contact, but the hassle doesnít necessarily outweigh the benefit in this instance. Researchers have even suggested that wearing gloves provides little more than an excuse for poor hand washing hygiene and a false sense of security.

Again, just wash your hands and avoid touching your face after coming into contact with someone or something that makes you squeamish. Gee, Iím starting to sound like a broken record!

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7. Wearing Surgical Masks.†

The reason surgical masks arenít nearly as effective as they seem can best be explained by understanding what theyíre intended for in the first place. Surgeons wear these masks to prevent spreading germs to patients, not to prevent themselves from getting sick FROM the patients. And, wouldnít you know, thereís some doubt as to whether surgical masks are even necessary in the operating room!

What does that mean for the rest of us? Well, in the real world, thereís also little evidence that surgical masks can help prevent the spread of disease or the impact of air pollution. These masks unfortunately provide little more than a false sense of security.

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Bailey R.
Bailey R3 years ago

Glad I don't do most of these things

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

Wash, wash, wash with soap! I never use antibacterial soap either, plain soap works just as well.

Muff-Anne York-Haley

I hate watching people make food with gloves on! Then they touch their hair, nose, face, cash register, money, gross!

Amanda M.
Amanda M3 years ago

Sorry, but in a public bathroom I'll still resort to using my foot on the flush handle (although the invention of those "touchless" toilets that flush as soon as you get up reduce the need for that) because Goddess only knows who touched it last. And I'm going to continue to use a paper towel over my hand to open the door to a public restroom after washing my hands because let's face it, not everybody bothers to wash after using the toilet and I don't want to catch their germs! (WHY do they make restroom doors that only open inward, anyway? What's wrong with two-way swinging doors?) Fortunately, the only thing that takes me down is the odd norovirus or its other GI cousins, but since I don't have time to spend 3-5 days flat on my back and the same amount of time running at half-power and those things are deathly contagious, I'm not taking chances! Between the kids and the patients I encounter as a volunteer firefighter/EMT, I'm exposed to enough crap!

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Virginia Smith
Virginia Belder3 years ago


Angela B.
Angela B3 years ago

My daughter is a germaphobe and it has taken me quite awhile to get her to stop using hand sanitizer in large quantities.

Elaine Bauer
Elaine Bauer3 years ago

One of the saner articles I've encountered; thanks! My immune system is pretty healthy, and I am not a germophobe. Too many antiseptic practices in this country have rendered many of us ripe for infection.

James Maynard
James Maynard3 years ago

Informative article, thanks!