The Question: I keep seeing scary articles and videos about how many germs we come into contact with every day, including particles of poop (gross!). Is this true?
Answer: Boy, have we got some crappy news for you.
It may come as no surprise that public objects like subway poles and door handles are potential germ castles, but it goes even further than that. Many surfaces ― from your phone to potentially even your beard ― are likely adorned with fecal matter (that’s poop).
“Given that we all produce and excrete feces, fecal matter in the environment is pretty common,” Kelly Reynolds, an associate professor at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health, told The Huffington Post.
Fecal matter can survive for days or sometimes even weeks on surfaces, according to Reynolds. A body of research has found that either the coliform bacteria, which is found in feces, or small traces of fecal matter itself exist on innocuous, everyday items like coffee mugs, keyboards, kitchen sponges and even your bag or purse.
This obviously transfers to your hands and fingers, which then touch other parts of your body (who hasn’t rested their face on their hand?). This likely means you ― shudder ― are at risk for ingesting the bacteria.
But there’s a simple solution to this problem: Basic hygiene. Reynolds recommends washing your hands thoroughly and often with hot water and soap, particularly after you visit the restroom (about 20 seconds of scrubbing should do the trick). It’s also a good idea to regularly wipe down surfaces in your house and personal workspaces.
As with anything bacteria-related, you could experience some side effects if you ingest some, Reynolds says. This can include diarrhea, stomach pain, vomiting or fever.
“In healthy individuals, gastrointestinal infections are generally self-limiting, meaning they go away on their own ― usually within a few days ― without treatment,” she said. “Some infections can last weeks, however, and lead to more severe health complications.”
More often than not, it isn’t something to worry about, but you should always see a doctor if you’re experiencing alarming changes in your health. Just make sure to keep yourself and your living space clean where you can. Otherwise you can proceed as normal with opening those doors, scrolling through your phone or growing your beard.
You’ve managed to survive thus far, haven’t you?
Got a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. “Ask Healthy Living” is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice.