7 Germaphobe Habits Everyone Should Follow

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What some may call “overreacting” could actually just be “practicing good hygiene.” (Photo: CBS)

Between bolting at the first sign of a sniffle to carrying around anti-bacterial wipes like a fashion accessory, it’s easy to understand why germaphobes may have a more “annoying” reputation.

But while they can sometimes take things to the extreme, experts say they have a few habits the rest of us should actually consider. “There are definitely steps you can take to significantly lower your chances of getting sick,” says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD. “Especially this year, where the flu season is exceptionally bad, it’s more important to take these steps.”

No one’s saying you should go overboard with the cleanliness, but by adopting some of these moves, you can increase your odds of staying healthy on the regular:

Hold Your Breath When Someone Sneezes

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(Photo: Getty Images)

You’re directly in the line of fire when a friend, coworker, or stranger sneezes in your vicinity. And if that person has a cold, you’re at risk for infection. According to Wider, holding your breath momentarily after someone with a cold sneezes can actually help lower your odds of catching it.

“Every sneeze expels tiny droplets that contain germs that can lead to infection,” she says, and breathing them in is bad news for your health. Just hold your breath for a few seconds to let the droplets settle, and then breathe normally. Since the most common way of catching a cold is by touch, it’s also a good idea to wash your hands if you’ve been near someone who is sneezing. 

Related: Are You Crazy for Working Out While Sick?

Wipe Down Your Phone

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Many of us share a rather intimate relationship with our smartphones — we touch them on and off all day, and regularly hold them near our faces after placing them on a variety of germy surfaces. Unfortunately, your nose, mouth, and eyes are “the most direct portal for germs to enter your body,” says internist Roshini Raj, MD, author of “What the Yuck?!” She advises cleaning your phone at least once a week with a disinfectant wipe to limit your exposure to unwanted bacteria. 

Clean Your Hands After Pumping Gas

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(Photo: Getty Images)

It’s probably a good idea to add an additional step to your gas-pumping routine: Clean your hands! According to a recent study from personal hygiene brand Kimberly-Clark Professional, gas pump handles are the filthiest surfaces that people encounter on their way to work. Why? A slew of people touch them during the day, and they rarely get cleaned, allowing for dirt and bacteria to build up over time. Since many gas stations have installed hand sanitizers near the pumps, Wider recommends using them before you touch your car door handle or steering wheel.

Use A Paper Towel On Public Bathroom Handles

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Studies have shown that the toilet seat isn’t the germiest surface in a public restroom. According to research from the University of Florida, faucets, soap dispensers, and door handles actually contain the most bacteria. “Just think about how many people aren’t washing their hands, or at least aren’t washing properly, before they grab the handle,” says Raj. She recommends washing your hands, then using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and push open the door, so you don’t re-contaminate your newly clean hands.

Related: I Hired A Flossing Coach, And It Might Actually Be Worth It

Put Down the Toilet Seat Lid Before You Flush

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Public restrooms aren’t the only bathrooms that get germy — your bathroom at home can also become a bacteria breeding ground. Something that can help keep bacteria in check: Lower the toilet seat lid before you flush. This prevents water vapors and microorganisms known as “toilet plume” aerosols from shooting into the air and landing on your toothbrush, says Beverly Hills dentist Kyle Stanley, DDS. Inhaling or swallowing those microorganisms, which is easy to do when you brush your teeth, can make you sick.

It’s a good idea to have some kind of cover over your toothbrush in the bathroom anyway, says Stanley, since germs and bacteria can easily snuggle up to the bristles. 

Wash Your Hands — The Right Way

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(Photo: Getty Images)

You’ve been washing your hands regularly since you were a kid, but odds are you’re not doing it properly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wash your hands for a full 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes you to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice), making sure to lather the front and back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails for most of the time. This process helps remove surface germs, which can still stick around if you do a quick wash. “Over 80 percent of infectious diseases are transmitted through the hands, so proper hand hygiene is essential,” says Raj. 

Clean Your Handbag Often

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Your bag goes everywhere with you — restaurants, work, public transportation — and it often sits on desks, tables, and the floor. Once you bring it home, you may put it on your kitchen counter or bed. So … when was the last time you cleaned it? According to Raj, you should periodically wipe the outside of your bag with a sanitizing wipe to get rid of germs lingering on the surface. Planning to wipe your phone while you’re at it? Use a new wipe, or you’ll transfer the germs from one surface to another.

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