The Germiest Places in Your Life

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...

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.

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