10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Germs When Dining Out

In these times of dangerous flu strains, food harboring bacteria, and only God knows what else is lurking out there we have to take a defensive stance against contaminating ourselves.

We do a lot of things when we eat out without really thinking about what the ramifications could be.

This list is not to suggest you become an anal germophobic. On the contrary, it aims to make you aware of some things you can do to ward off germs that are harmful to your health.

Here is my list of ten things that can steer you clear of picking up something that may make you upchuck or worse.

  • Don’t take disposable drink lids from the top of the stack. Disposable drink cup lids in the self-serve area of fast food restaurants are havens for germs. Rarely can a person pull a single lid from the stack without an additional two or three being stuck together. They have to pull the additional lids apart from one (handling those with bare hands) and replace them back on the stack. These lids are germy. Pull your lid from the center and whenever possible use a straw.
  • Sanitize cutlery. Somebody had to put the cutlery in the dispenser and I’ll bet you a dime to a donut they weren’t wearing gloves when the did it. Add to that the cutlery has been pawed by every Tom, Dick, and Harry customer that came before you. It’s impossible to reach into a container of unwrapped spoons, forks, or knives and extract one without touching some of the others. You can watch this transmission of germs in progress the next time you’re in a fast food restaurant that puts out plastic cutlery in groups. BONUS TIP: Don’t be mislead by the plastic wrapped cutlery- what’s inside may be clean but the wrapper’s exterior is still laden with germs.
  • Don’t activate drink dispenser levers with the lip of your cup. Some public accessible fountain drink dispensers are push button activated and some are not. Those that don’t dispense via buttons require the dispenser to be activated by pressing a lever. A lot of us like to use the lip of our cup to activate that lever. Bad move because some of us drink from our cups and all sorts of germs are on the lips of our cups. Those germs get transferred to the dispenser’s activation level. Use your finger to activate the lever to avoid contaminating your cup.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands after entering restaurants. If you opened the door to get in the restaurant you’ve just handled something that hundreds of folks before you handled. You don’t know them or where their hands have been. Wash or sanitize your hand before handling your food.
  • If you pay with cash before you eat-sanitize your hands. I’ve seen people pull money from bras, underwear, out of shoes and spend it. Money is a mega bacteria haven.You might want to watch the person that made the cash transaction to see if they handle your food without gloving up.
Everybody and his brother has touched these
  • Use your portable hand sanitizer to clean condiment dispensers on eatery tables or at the very least handle them with a napkin. When you reach for the salt, pepper, ketchup, etc, dispensers on restaurant tables you’re doing the same thing you did when you grabbed the door handle to open the door to the restaurant. You‘re’ touching something a lot of folks with germy hands touched before you.You can literally transfer any lingering germs back to any of your food you touch.Then you eat it and later on you don’t feel good.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands after handling the menu. Restaurants don’t wash menus so you have to defend yourself against bacteria present on menus by washing away any germs you may have picked up.
  • Have your server or bartender hold the fruity garnish on drinks. According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70 percent of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes. When the researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants, they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons they secured, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching anything in a public restroom, especially the soap dispenser, toilet flush and door handles. About 25 percent of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria. A University of Arizona study found soap dispensers are havens for bacteria. “Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria grow as the soap scum builds up,” says microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., who directed the study. “Be sure to scrub your hands thoroughly with plenty of hot water for 15 to 20 seconds — and if you happen to have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, use that, too. Use a paper towel to pull the door open when you leave.
  • After you’re all sanitized up and enjoying your meal keep your hands off the table and any exposed seating. We unconsciously like to rest our hands on the excess seating on bench style seating common in fast food establishments. All kinds of booties have been in the seat before you.

That’s just ten focus points on how you can avoid making yourself sick via of bacteria and germs when eating out. There are many more precautions to keep in mind that would make this list so long you’d be forever reading it.

If you have some pet peeves you’d like to share you are welcomed to add them to the comment section below this post on the blog page.

Originally published at medium.com on October 27, 2015.