Handles, Buttons & High Chairs
Germy Zone: Water Fountains
A typical drinking fountain contains more harmful germs than a public toilet seat, according to a recent study at elementary schools by NSF International, a nonprofit health and safety organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Kids tend to touch the spigot with their fingers or their mouth, passing on germs to the next person who drinks. Cold and flu viruses can live on the metal for up to five hours.
Stay safe: Teach your child to keep his lips (and fingers) off the spigot and to let the water run for a few seconds before sipping. "That helps wash away harmful organisms," says Robert Donofrio, director of the microbiology lab at NSF International. Or take along a separate water bottle -- just make sure he's the only one who drinks from it.
Germy Zone: Shopping-Cart Handles
Supermarket workers and shoppers are constantly touching these handles -- and spreading germs. If the blood from raw meat reaches a handle, your child could ingest harmful bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter.
Stay safe: Clean the handle with a disinfecting wipe before putting your child in the cart. If you buy a shopping-cart cover, keep in mind that these can also carry germs (which survive longer in fabric than on a plastic handle), so you should wash them regularly.
Germy Zone: Children's Museums
Those buttons your child presses to activate electronic exhibits have been pushed by dozens of other little hands, making them major bug conductors. And elevator and vending-machine buttons are just as germy.
Stay safe: Tell your child not to touch his eyes, nose, or mouth at the museum. You don't have to spoil his fun by keeping him away from the interactive exhibits, but make sure he washes his hands or uses a hand cleanser afterward.
Germy Zone: Public High Chairs
A restaurant may be kid-friendly, but that doesn't mean it's germ-proof. Chances are the chair you plop your toddler into hasn't been cleaned since the last child used it. Your home high chair may not be so clean either: Germs commonly fester in corners and crannies you can't reach.
Stay safe: Bring a disposable high-chair cover to restaurants, or use a disinfecting wipe to clean the high chair. Wipe down your child's home high chair after every meal with disinfecting spray and a paper towel (the sponge you use to clean dishes or wipe counters could contain harmful germs). Also consider getting a model made with antimicrobial plastic, which does some of the germ-killing for you.
Germy Zone: Computer Keyboards
Stay safe: Teach your child to sneeze into the crook of her arm and to blow her nose with a tissue, so she's less likely to spread germs to keyboards and computer mouses. At home, have her wash her hands before and after using the computer. Wipe the keyboard with a disinfectant cloth once a week -- and whenever someone with a cold uses it.