Posted by Michael Barber, August 25, 2013 (last updated on February 24, 2020)
Microorganisms are the last unexplored frontier. All of the bacteria we know about only accounts for one percent of all the bacteria that exists. Researchers are still trying to find and identify the other 99 percent. We do, however, know a number of germs that can cause serious, potentially fatal illnesses. Many of these germs enjoy the warm, moist environment of our hands, especially our palms. What's living on your hands?
#1 Cold and Flu Germs
About one billion people in America get colds each year. Chances are, the grocery cart you pushed, the escalator railing you held to get to the second floor of the mall, and the door handle you used to exit the movie theater have all been recently touched by someone suffering from or carrying the cold or flu germ. These bugs are contagious even before we show symptoms, so waiting until you feel sick to start exercising caution is too late.
#2 E. coli Germs
Eating tainted meat isn't the only way to get E. coli. This organism lives
in the human intestine, and unfortunately, only five percent of us properly wash hands
after using the restroom. This means these germs end up on everything they
touch, including door handles, shopping cart handles, public phones, taxi cab
door handles, stair railings, and most anything else you can think of. E. coli
is rarely fatal in healthy adults, but causes some unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and
abdominal cramps. Contact a pediatric urgent care center if you fear your child
has been exposed.
#3 Salmonella Germs
Like E. coli, most people associate salmonella with eating poorly
cooked poultry. But also like E. coli, salmonella lives in the human
intestine and ends up on our hands the same way. We can also get salmonella on
our hands when we shop for poultry or eggs, prepare these foods, or come in
contact with someone else who has. Washing thoroughly each time you handle food
helps prevent the spread of these germs. The symptoms of salmonella are similar to E. coli. Visit
a family care center if you exhibit these symptoms. A doctor can test to see
what germ is causing your symptoms.
#4 Staph Germs
Staph germs are literally everywhere, and most people have no symptoms from exposure. However, the use of antibiotics in recent decades has caused new forms of staph to develop, leading to more serious strains that can cause a variety of symptoms, including skin rashes, boils, or an infection in the lining of the heart. Most serious staph infections occur in people who have been hospitalized or had surgery.
#5 Germs Which Cause Gastrointestinal Illnesses
There is an array of germs that cause gastrointestinal distress, including symptoms much like E. coli or salmonella. These germs live on our hands, and cause swelling in the stomach and intestines. These germs sometimes come from eating contaminated food, but the germs can pass from an infected person to you in the same way cold and flu germs do. If you experience diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, or other symptoms, visit your local urgent care.
Most of the thousands of germs that call your hands home are harmless or actually beneficial. Beneficial germs can't be completely washed off, but a thorough scrubbing for a whole minute under warm running water eliminates most of the germs that lead to illness.