Tis the season for trips to the mall, wrapping presents and compiling gift lists. If you are like most Americans this year, you will make at least one trip to a shopping center. But did you know that there may be some scary health dangers lurking as you browse your favorite stores, ride the escalator and take a break in the food court?
While you can’t exactly avoid shopping – and we certainly wouldn’t recommend it – there are simple ways you can protect your health. Researchers found E. coli, staph, strep, cold and flu viruses, and even bodily fluids on many mall surfaces. We break down five ways you can stay healthy while shopping this year.
- Hand sanitizer is your friend. Studies have shown that there is an alarming amount of germs on many mall surfaces, such as escalator rails, phones and computer displays at electronic stores, items in toy stores and even the pen you sign your credit card receipt with. Since washing your hands isn’t always possible after each task while you shop, keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy to bust germs while you complete your to-do list.
- When swiping makeup samples, always do so on your hand and never apply products to your eyes, lips or face. In fact, a 2005 study found that between 67 and 100 percent of makeup testers contain bacteria – including E. coli, strep and staph.
- Food court finesse. Studies have shown that food court tables can be covered in dangerous germs. Again, washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before you eat is your best bet for staying healthy. Consider carrying a sanitizing wipe with you to wipe down the table and chairs before you eat. At the very least, don’t place your food or utensils directly on table surfaces.
- Dressing rooms. There is something even scarier in store fitting rooms than unflattering fluorescent lights. The clothing you try on might contain skin cells, sweat and bacteria from others who have tried it on before you. Always wear undergarments when trying on clothes and consider wearing leggings or shorts when trying on pants. Keep your shoes on in the dressing room as well to avoid contracting plantar warts or a foot fungus. Finally, when you get home, wash new clothes before wearing them.
- Mall bathrooms – particularly sinks – are the perfect hiding place for germs. That sink handle you just touched? It could be covered in E. coli bacteria because people touch them right after using the restroom. Be sure you lather well with soap and rinse for 20 seconds.