Have you ever wondered how many germs you’re exposed to every day? The truth might just keep you up at night. If you’re a germaphobe, you’re probably already in a constant state of fear of the host of infectious microorganisms that run rampant practically everywhere you go.
While a strong immune system, good sanitation, and the general harmless nature of most bacteria mean we’re not always sick despite constant exposure, sometimes a particularly unlucky brush with the more aggressive set of these nasty buggers can land us in the hospital. So fellas, always remember the need for proper hygiene.
There's a risk of getting a skin infection even in the most random locations. Believe it or not, public bathrooms are not the worst of these germ-ridden hotspots. Here are a few other places you should learn to be a bit more wary of:
Are you a certified fitness buff? Or maybe you’re a casual gym rat? Either way, the gym is a veritable breeding ground for germs.
Human Papillomavirus, or more popularly known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted disease, though sex is obviously not the only way it gets around. When it’s not causing cervical, penile, and anal cancer, getting exposed to HPV usually means finding warts in unmentionable places, like on your groin (genital warts) and on the soles of your feet (plantar warts). The culprits: sweaty bike seats or walking around barefoot in the shower.
You can also get ringworm—itchy, scaly, red rings that may blister or ooze if left untreated. Ringworm comes from a specific type of fungi called dermatophytes, which can affect the skin, hair, and nails. You’re probably most familiar with two types of ringworm infections: athlete’s foot, which usually starts as stinging patches or fissures in the webbing between your toes, and jock itch, which causes a rash on your groin area. An article published by Harvard Medical School explains that the fungi favors areas rich in dampness and foot traffic. To control the spread of infection, keep bathroom surfaces clean and don’t share towels.
Pro-tip: Wipe down thoroughly with anti-bacterial wipes before and after touching anything. Never walk barefoot, especially in the shower room. And cover up any cuts or broken skin before using shared equipment.
The Movie Theater
When you’re in the cinema and enjoying the newest blockbuster, you probably don’t even think about how many other people have sat exactly where you are. Well, maybe next time you should, because you’re not just cuddling with your date, but with all the other parasites left behind on your seat.
Aside from soda stains and crushed popcorn, moviegoers can potentially leave head lice. The NHS defines head lice as tiny insects that live in your hair. These critters can cause an itchy scalp, irritating neck and ears in the process.
Your head might not be only thing under attack. Since many movie theaters are guilty of never washing or sanitizing their seats beyond the routine clean up of leftover trash, a bed bug infestation is not beyond the realm of possibility either. So if you find yourself breaking out in itching red welts or bumps, then sadly, you’re now the proud owner of a set of bed bug bites, which are caused by tiny insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals.
Pro-tip: Wear clothing that covers you as much as possible. Bringing a seat cover or blanket is advisable, just remember to thoroughly wash it once you get home. And if you can pull off a head scarf or hat inside the theater, then go for it! The person behind you might get slightly annoyed, though.
Public transportation in the Philippines leaves a lot to be desired, and you should consider yourself lucky if you manage to get a ride in a roomy train car or bus. Because being in such close quarters with dozens of strangers? Not a good thing.
All that prolonged sweaty rubbing up against each other can get you a case of scabies. According to Healthline, this “highly contagious condition can easily be passed from one person to another through direct skin contact” and usually shows up as a rash that “consists of tiny blister or pimple-like bumps.” Scabies are known for causing an intense itch that worsens at night, so happy scratching!
Of course, a little rash might be preferable to getting a staph infection, which is marked by boils, pustules, rashes, or pimples that are, for the most part, easily treatable. If you’re really unlucky though, you might get infected with the nightmare strain that is methicillin-resistant Staphyloccoccus aureus (MRSA), a particularly aggressive and potentially fatal form of the staph bacteria that’s resistant to antibiotics. According to the CDC, MRSA is usually transmitted either directly through the skin or by contact with shared items or surfaces that have touched someone’s MRSA-infected wound, which could happen while on overcrowded buses and trains.
Pro-tips: Avoid packed buses or trains if possible, or at least, try not to have direct skin contact with other people. Cover your open wounds, and be on the lookout for people who do not do the same.
You might not realize it, but you’re always surrounded by bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and are particularly vulnerable in public places that many other people frequent as well. Practicing proper hygiene and being vigilant can go a long way in keeping you healthy.