This article has great ideas for keeping yourself safe from the virus while grocery shopping.
March 24, 2017, 2:06 PM EDT / Source: TODAY
By Karen B. Gibbs
We love our supermarkets, but with microbes piggybacking on produce and multiplying in meat cases, you might be bringing home more than groceries when you shop.
We asked Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona (his nickname is Dr. Germ), to reveal the dirty details on the top germy things in supermarkets. You may be surprised to learn that something you bring in with you may be among the germiest items of them all. Here are the 10 germiest things and places in your grocery store, with tips on how to protect yourself.
Since 80 percent of germs are transmitted with our hands, it makes sense that shopping cart handles are covered in bacteria. “The first thing I do is wipe the handle,” says Gerba. Take advantage of the sanitizing wipes at the entrance to the store and do the same, or carry your own wipes.
Drippy noses, drooling mouths and leaky diapers — kiddies leave behind some interesting stuff . “I wipe down the place where the kid’s bottom goes because that’s where I put the fruits and vegetables,” says Gerba. So, whether you're putting a tot or a purse on it, wipe down the child’s seat.
Remember the stat about hands spreading germs? Nowhere does this come into play more than in the fresh produce section. “I don’t know anyone who buys produce without squeezing or touching it,” says Gerba. Cuts or tears in produce provide an open door for germs to enter, so Gerba recommends choosing produce that is not cracked, split or opened in some way. While you're in the produce aisle, pick up some extra plastic baggies — you'll need them for No. 4.
When selecting meat, poultry or seafood, only choose packages that are cool to the touch. If the packaging is torn or leaking, don’t buy it, says Gerba, because germs can enter through those openings. He also advises double-bagging these items before placing them in the cart, and keeping them separate from produce to avoid cross-contamination.
NSF International, a public health and safety organization, advises shoppers to check all canned and boxed goods for damage. Never buy swollen, leaking or damp cans — that can be a sign that the product is contaminated with bacteria, including the Clostridium botulinum that causes botulism. Also, avoid products with rips or punctures in packaging. These are gateways for germs. According to Gerba, as long as the packages aren't damaged, most canned and boxed goods should be safe, though he does recommend wiping the tops of canned goods before opening them.
RELATED: How to spring clean your fridge
A disturbing 50 percent of self–checkout touch–screens had fecal bacteria and some had MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a staph bacteria that is resistant to many types of antibiotics normally used to treat staph infections) too, according to Gerba. “There are actually more antibiotic–resistant bacteria on these screens than in a hospital,” he says. If you like to DIY, make sure to use hand sanitizer after you finish checking out.
Payment screens for credit and debit card purchases require input from a stylus or your finger. In either case, people probably do not wash their hands before using these, so there’s a good chance the same kinds of germs that are on the self-checkout touch screens are also setting up house on payment screens.
You turn on the bathroom faucet with germy hands, then turn it off with newly cleaned hands. Result: you might be leaving the bathroom germier than when you entered it, with nasties like salmonella and E. coli on your hands. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet, then use it again to open the door when you leave. If the restroom also has hand sanitizer, play it safe and use it on the way out, Gerba adds.
Here's the germy thing you might be bringing with you: Reusable bags, if not washed between uses, may be among the germiest items you come in contact with in the supermarket. "The poultry drippings, leaking milk and left–behind produce have nothing to do but breed germs between trips to the market, especially when sitting in a warm trunk," says Gerba.
NSF International recommends washing reusable bags in soap and water after each use. It also suggests marking bags by product type — bakery, produce, meat, etc., to avoid cross–contamination. “Don’t use shopping bags for dirty gym shoes or workout clothes, either,” adds Gerba. “Who knows what you’re introducing into the bags?”
Sometimes shoppers inadvertently turn perfectly good food into a germ-fest by not handling it properly, says Gerba. Keep cold food cool and hot food warm by picking up refrigerated, frozen and hot deli items right before checking out. If it’s going to take more than an hour to get home, NSF International advises consumers to pack raw meat in a cooler — and keep the cooler in the passenger area of the car during warm weather.
One last reminder: "Ditch supermarket germs as soon as you get home by washing your hands or using hand sanitizer," says Gerba. It’s one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your family.
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I love this list of things to do! A great article filled with bright reminders and good ideas for our families during this time of quarantine.
Let in the Light
This may sound silly, but my first suggestion to stay sane during COVID-19 is keep your home well lit. Open the curtains and blinds during the day, and use warm light in the evening. Thankfully, daylight savings happened already, so we can enjoy the daylight longer. Enjoying the sunlight will help you stay more upbeat and positive.
Breathe the Fresh Air
It’s important to get fresh air to stay mentally healthy. It can be tempting to hole up in your home, but you and your family will feel less stressed and confined by breathing in fresh air. Open the windows when the weather is nice, and get that air circulating throughout your home. And definitely get some time outside! Take your kids out in the backyard if you have one, or take a walk. Avoid public playgrounds, and try some outdoor challenges instead.
Enjoy Upbeat Music
Stay sane during COVID-19 by turning on some music in your home. Play songs that make you feel good. Pick music you can sing along to, crank it up, and have a dance party with your kids. I just found a playlist of Disney songs, and it is glorious!
Read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for ages. Clean out that closet. Get a jump start on your spring cleaning and de-cluttering. Try cooking a new dish. (Pinterest is filled with tons of easy recipes that require very basic ingredients you likely have on hand.) Doing something productive will help you from feeling hopeless or helpless.
Stay sane during COVID-19 by doing something creative. Channel your anxiety and worry in art or journaling. Do a brain dump to help ease stress and get all the things racing around in your head on paper.
Cuddle with Your Kids
Instead of looking at the COVID-19 pandemic as a huge, stressful, worrisome inconvenience, consider shifting your mindset. This is precious time with your kids. You are literally forced to slow down and spend time together. Yes, it will be stressful at times: your kids will be bored, fight with each other, and start to experience cabin fever, but changing how you view the situation will help not only your mental health, but also that of your entire family. So snuggle with your babies, read books, do some fun activities, and watch movies together (tip: Frozen II just dropped on Disney +).
In addition to getting outside and taking walks in your neighborhood, consider doing some quick home workouts to get your blood pumping. I found some quick, easy yoga videos on YouTube, and there are tons of other exercise videos. Getting exercise will help you stay sane during COVID-19.
It’s hard to have a bad attitude and worry so much when you’re thankful for what you have. Each day, write down one thing you are thankful for. Create a gratitude journal!
Take Time for Yourself
These next few days and weeks will be difficult for your entire family. There will be moments when you are at your wits end and about to pull out your hair. When you get to this point, give the kids some screen time (I promise it won’t kill them), and step away. Run a bath, do a yoga routine, or take a nap. Stay sane during COVID-19 by taking time to reset your brain, and even check out this self care challenge.
Limit Social Media
We’ve known for a while that too much time on social media isn’t great for our mental health. But if you want to stay sane during COVID-19, it’s necessary to limit the time you spend scrolling. From my own personal experience, it’s easy to work yourself into a panic as you read things you find online. You can fall down a rabbit hole of statistics and research that will leave you more anxious than before. I’m not saying you need to keep your head in the sand but get your information somewhere more reliable than social media. Check the City of Albuquerque website, NM Department of Health, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the latest updates if you need them.
I know it’s hard, mama. But I hope these tips will help you stay sane during COVID-19. Remember your mental health is very important for not only you, but for your family, too. So make sure you take time to assess where you’re struggling and take steps to correct it. We’ll get through this together!