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The Germiest Places in Your Life

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Congratulations: You ducked swine flu. But that doesn't mean you should ditch the Purell. Try though you might to live a sterile life, you simply can⿿t escape the covert dirt. "It's estimated that 65 percent of colds are caught in your home," says Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU's Langone Medical Center, who, along with Allison Janse, co-author of The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, helped us hone our list of germ hazards. "Disinfection should be focused on the dirtiest areas," Tierno says. So it's time to start scrubbing the kitchen sink. As for the menu at that upscale restaurant, your best defense is washing your hands—and keeping them out of your face. Katie Hintz-Zambrano

GERM LEVEL:

1. (Least Amount of Germs)
Dressing-room floor at a department store
Menu at a four-star restaurant
Airplane pillows
Your dive bar's bar

2.
Your toothbrush
Your contact lenses
Your wallet

3.
Your kid
Your dog
Whole Foods
Shopping basket
Wii controller
Seat of an exercise bike at the gym
Champagne room
At a strip club
ATM buttons
Salad bar
Your computer mouse
Menu at a diner

4.
Office conference table
Dumbbells at the gym
Hotel remote control
Your iPhone
Handrails on the subway
Bathroom hand dryers
Public yoga mats
Communal keyboards at the Apple Store
Taxi touch screen
Dive bar⿿s communal peanut bowl

5.
Your kitchen sink
Locker-room showers
Water in an airplane-bathroom sink
Shared office phone
Coughing neighbor on an airplane
Urinal handle at the dive bar

Q+A

Q: Is pumping yourself full of vitamin C and zinc a legit way to fight illness?

A: Unfortunately, it's a little more complicated than that. "You have to have a strong, balanced immune system," says Dr. Kenneth Bock, author of The Road to Immunity and The Germ Survival Guide. "You achieve that through getting enough sleep, moderating stress, getting regular exercise, and having a nutritional diet low in refined carbohydrates and sugars—which have been shown to have a negative impact on the ability of white blood cells to fight viruses and bacteria." But yes, once you've got all that covered, you can give your immune system an added boost by loading up on vitamins C, E, and D and on zinc.

READ MORE:
The energy psychology craze
The secret to whiter teeth
How to avoid office strain

Photographs by Christian Patterson
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