The 6 Germiest Places at the Office

Find out which surfaces are the most common hot spots for germs and how to protect your health

Thinking about grabbing a snack from the vending machine at the office? Or reheating last night’s leftovers for lunch in the breakroom? You might want to wash your hands after you touch surfaces in those areas. They might be crawling with germs.

A recent study delved into the dirty secrets of workplace surfaces to reveal germy hotspots that office workers touch every day. Hygienists from Kimberly-Clark’s Healthy Workplace Project swabbed 4,800 surfaces from a variety of office locations within varying professions including law offices, manufacturing facilities, insurance companies, call centers and health care institutions. The researchers then tested these surfaces for levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule present in all animal, vegetable, bacterial, yeast and mold cells.

Surfaces with ATP levels greater than 300 are considered high risk for illness transmission. The following fit into that category:

  1. 75 percent of break room sink faucet handles
  2. 48 percent of microwave door handles
  3. 27 percent of keyboards
  4. 26 percent of refrigerator door handles
  5. 23 percent of water fountain buttons
  6. 21 percent of vending machine buttons

Tips to stay healthy and prevent spreading germs

With the cold and flu season right around the corner, it’s especially important to be aware of where germs are hiding and how to protect yourself—and your coworkers—from the spread of germs. Arnold Cuenca, DO, a primary care physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Oceanside, offers the following tips:

Wash your hands
“It is very important to thoroughly wash your hands when you arrive at work, after using the restroom, and before and after eating,” says Dr. Cuenca. “Washing your hands the proper way takes about 20-30 seconds. An adequate washing of your hands should take about the same amount of time as it takes to sing the happy birthday song.”

Disinfect work surfaces
Disinfecting commonly touched areas at work such as desks, keyboards, computer mice, conference room tables, phones and water fountain buttons will help to prevent the build-up of potentially harmful germs on surfaces.

Use hand sanitizer
“Keeping hand sanitizers at your desk and in the break room reinforces healthy hygiene behaviors,” notes Dr. Cuenca. “And it helps to prevent the spreading of germs.”

Get a flu vaccine
“Getting an annual flu shot is always a good preventive measure to avoid contracting and spreading the flu,” recommends Dr. Cuenca. The annual flu shot is adjusted every year to protect against the most common strains of the flu for the season. If you are able to have a flu shot, you will not only be protecting yourself, but you’ll also help prevent passing the flu virus on to people who are unable to get flu shots, such as those with egg allergies or have had Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome.

Take care of your body
“The best and simplest advice to staying healthy is to make sure you get enough rest, sleep and exercise,” notes Dr. Cuenca. “It is also important to eat a balanced diet and to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use.”

Find a primary care physician

Call 1-800-SCRIPPS (1-800-727-4777) for a referral for a primary care physician.

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