Megan Fox recently said in an interview that she has a phobia of germs--so much so that she won't use public bathrooms and recoils at restaurant cutlery. And, she's not the only woman who's freaked out by nasty bugs: In a Self.com poll last year, 75 percent of readers said they flush public toilets with their foot, and 63 percent avoid handrails on subways, buses, and escalators. And 1 in 10 said they avoid shaking hands.
According to SELF contributor Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, we should at the very least be cautious and aware. And she should know. She's a self-described "scary disease" reporter who's been following around Centers for Disease Control detectives for years, tracking drug-resistant staph (a.k.a. MRSA)--a bug that was once contained to hospitals and jails, but in recent years has made it's way into the general public. When she wrote about MRSA for SELF in 2007 (The Bug Drugs Can't Cure) her inbox exploded with women who had somehow been affected by this potentially-fatal bug.
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Freaked out after reading Superbug (put me in Megan Fox's corner), I asked Maryn for advice on avoiding MRSA and bad bugs in general. Here's what the scary disease reporter had to say.
At the gym "I never wear shorts to the gym anymore and it's not just because I have awful thighs! I know there will be a day when I am lost in my workout and I will sit on a bench without wiping it down. It's impossible to be mindful 100 percent of the time and to me it's not worth the risk. At the very least, it's important to change out of your gym clothes immediately after your workout. Staph reproduces in sweaty, salty environments, so the longer you stay in your gym clothes the more likely you are to be at risk."
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At the doc "Drug-resistant staph really exploded in health care. So if you're going to the hospital for, say, an out-patient surgery (even something as simple as a mole removal!) ask them about how they keep the place clean. Challenge them about it. Also, it's a good idea to ask if you can rinse off with antibacterial soap prior to a procedure or after an exam."
At a crowded party "Staph--all Staph--lives on our skin and in our nostrils. We are the carriers. It can of course live on us without making us sick, but certain environments (an extreme example would be an Army barracks) increase risk of infection." If you're somewhere crowded and sweaty and hot, wash your hands often. "The hands are the single easiest way to transport bugs, but washing your hands is like whacking them over the head with a hammer. The friction of rubbing your hands together jars them loose, then the suds lift them away from your skin so the water can rinse them away."
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At the makeup counter "I am a total sucker for makeup, but makeup sampling freaks me out. Never ever try something that people are putting there fingers in. That skin contact transfers all kinds of bugs." If you're sketched out, ask the woman at the counter if she has a new tester you can use. They almost always say yes because they want to make the sale.
In the kitchen
"These types of bugs are starting to make it into the food chain so it's important to wash produce well and use separate cutting boards for meat. It's not about being paranoid, it's about incorporating simple steps into the workflow of your day."
What crazy things do you do to avoid germs?
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio