What’s in the water? The bacterial booby traps of summer
As you’re soaking up summer in pools and on playgrounds, you likely don’t want to think about what’s lurking on all those surfaces. Bacterial booby traps are everywhere.
Microbiologist Jason Tetro shares these tips on avoiding microscopic menaces.
The Public Pool
Tetro says regulations on chlorine levels mean there should be enough of the chemical in a public pool to kill off germs, for example, from “noses or mouths.”
“But once you get out of the swimming pool, there’s no chlorine,” he adds, meaning the pool deck and other wet surfaces are the real germ zones.
Remember the old adage that eating dirt is good for kids?
Tetro doesn’t entirely disagree but advises you to pick the location carefully.
“When it comes time for little kids to develop an immune system, let them eat dirt – that’s fine.”
“Beaches, on the other hand, are a little bit more troublesome,” Tetro adds. That’s because freshwater or ocean tides may carry E. coli, salmonella and other dangers onto the sand.
But here’s one thing to consider before turning your back on your kid’s sandbox buffet: “If you have wildlife going in there or cats and dogs using it as the litter, it’s a bit more concerning.”
Tetro has looked around hotel rooms on a microscopic level and has seen some lack-lustre sanitation. He names the TV remote control and the top cover of the bed as top germ concerns.
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He advises wiping down surfaces yourself with disinfectant wipes. “And for your own hands, have the alcohol hand sanitizer.”
As for air travel, “The head rest is actually the ‘germiest’ place.” Tray tables and seat pockets are other big offenders.
The other risk factor? Other people.
“I like to consider airplanes like emergency rooms. You don’t really know who the other person is.”
“They’re sitting really close to you and you don’t know what they’re spurting and spouting,”
He travels with a scarf to protect himself when needed but also shares this handy tip: When a fellow traveller sneezes or coughs, cover your nose and mouth for 30 seconds.
“Wait for the droplets to go down and then you’re OK.”
Unsettling to think about but a good way to keep your summer illness-free.
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