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For Illness Prevention, Remember High-Touch Objects

There are many things you can do to help prevent illness, hand washing being one of the top strategies. However, it is also important to be aware of the objects that are considered “high-touch” – objects that people frequently touch and are agents in spreading a lot of germs. WakeMed’s Melinda Cooper, RN, BSN, CIC, infection preventionist and public health epidemiologist, and Lance Hoover, manager of WakeMed Environmental Services, helped us identify these objects and learn more about how to appropriately manage use of them.

High-touch objects are found everywhere, such as public places, offices, hospitals, hotels, churches, and even your home. These objects include, but are not limited to:

  • Remote control
  • Door knobs, especially bathroom door knobs
  • Doors
  • Refrigerator door handle
  • Toilet flush handle
  • Sink faucet handles
  • Light switches
  • Toilet seat
  • Phone
  • Staircase and escalator railing
  • Computer keyboard/mouse
  • Copier/printer buttons 
  • Gas pump handle
  • Shopping cart handle
  • Elevator buttons
  • Money – dollars and coins

Illnesses that are commonly spread via high-touch objects include MRSA, cough and cold viruses, flu virus, rhinoviruses, staph infections, and germs that cause diarrheal illnesses such as norovirus. Some illnesses can live on these objects for days, and even weeks.  Touching them is often unavoidable but there are things you can do both at home and in public to help avoid infection.

  • Clean them! Use a bleach-based disinfectant mixed at the appropriate concentration to clean high-touch objects in your home.  Be sure to check the label and read instructions for proper use.  For example, many cleaning agents need time to dry (i.e. 10 minutes) before effectively killing germs.
  • Don’t inoculate yourself. When in public, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Use a barrier, such as a shirt sleeve, paper towel or scarf, when opening door handles or using other high-touch objects.
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap or use an alcohol-based hand gel whenever and wherever possible, especially before eating and drinking or putting anything in your mouth.

Simple strategies like these can help combat illness and keep a lot of germs at bay. Here’s hoping everyone out there is staying as healthy and well as possible!