Germiest Public Places for Kids to Avoid

Like most of humanity, I like to think I’m concerned about being clean and hygienic and avoiding germs. But it wasn’t until our first child was born that I upped my game. I took all necessary precautions to ensure that everything her tiny fingers touched was completely sterile.

Image via iStock

If she dropped a chew toy, I would do what all normal parents would do:  pre-spray it with Lysol, thoroughly clean it with baby wipes, wash and rinse it in soapy water, dab it clean with rubbing alcohol, scour it with a Brillo Pad, submerge it in sanitizer gel, run it through the washing machine and/or dishwasher, drop it in boiling water and allow it to sit under a UV-emitting gas discharge lamp for no less than 24 hours.

If my dad-sense still detected any microorganisms on the toy, I would handily destroy it and discard the ashes somewhere at least 30 miles from our home.

{ MORE: A Mysterious Illness Is Paralyzing Children Across the Country - Here's What You Need to Know }

I’ve lightened up a bit since then, but I still like to steer clear of germy situations wherever I go. So here’s a list of places where you should be vigilant for that stink, stank, stunk.

Drinking fountains – I’m not saying general drinking water is at risk, but I am saying that the kids who slurp directly onto the metal spout might be. I remember a news story from years ago which suggested drinking fountains in some schools have more bacteria than the toilet seat. Sorry kids, I don’t care how parched you are, you’ll wait until we get home.

Public bathrooms – Frankly, I’m not sure there’s much we need to say here that you don’t already suspect. Americans may argue and remain decisive about a lot of things, but we all remain united in the common fact that it’s always better to do #1 and #2 in the comfort of our own homes.

Playgrounds – I won’t say suggest that only my kids are clean little angels and everyone else is dirty. It’s just that I wince when I see kids barefoot on the same playground equipment where my kids are playing. And it’s not just the bare feet, it’s the used Band-Aids and tissues I see them stepping on as they frolic. It’s also the grabbing of handles and bars by the same hands that are rubbed on runny noses. Yes, we’ll enjoy the playground like anyone else, but I’ll also be a little more on guard.

Grocery store carts – Many grocery stores have complimentary wipes right next to the carts. Why? Because they know the handles are as germ-infested as any door knob or public item you’ll touch today – or possibly worse. According to a 2007 University of Arizona study shared by AARP, almost two-thirds of shopping carts were contaminated with – get this – fecal bacteria. On a positive note, if you think about that statistic while in the store, it just might curb spending if you’re shopping on an empty stomach.

Escalator handrails – You’re probably starting to detect a common theme:  if you touch it with your hands, it’s probably not clean. And this is a tough one to regulate, because kids love riding on escalators. But the problem is that the railings don’t often get cleaned because they’re constantly rolling around like a conveyor belt, thus the shiny, smooth look. But tests on those belts have found mucus, feces, blood and E. coli on escalators. Next time, balance without holding the rails or simply use the stairs.

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Obviously not all of these things can be completely avoided, but it's a good idea to follow up with a good hand washing (or at least a wipe down if nothing else). 

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Germiest Public Places for Kids to Avoid

Tom Konecny is a dad of four children and husband to wife, Erika. Tom currently serves as a private consultant in writing, communications and marketing. In 2013, Tom founded Dad Marketing, a site dedicated to exploring the world of marketing to dads. He previously worked in sports marketing, served as an associate editor and writer for several publications, and directed an award-winning corporate marketing department. His first book, "DADLY Dollar$" will be published this summer, and he is c ... More

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