My kids love to play with a dirty Little Tykes mailbox toy every time we visit our pediatrician's office--a pretty frequent occurrence with my toddler, especially during cold and flu season. I've often wondered if that's such a good idea, since about a million other drippy-nose munchkins have also played with it. I never once saw a nurse pulling out the bleach wipes after my children were called into the exam room.
Now my fears are confirmed: Cold viruses live on one in five waiting room toys, according to new research from germ hunters the University of Virginia.
Time to assemble a "doctor visit toy bag"!
Even if our nurse was more diligent, commercially available germ-killing wipes commonly used to clean the toys are "only modestly effective," says researcher Diane Pappas, MD.
"What was really discouraging was that two toys that tested negative before they were cleaned were positive afterward," she tells WebMD. "We don't know how, but the virus is somehow being transferred."
What's more, people with colds can also leave germs on doorknobs, refrigerator door handles, TV remotes, and bathroom faucets--and some of the germs may remain infectious for up to two days afterward. Don't even get me started about research on salt and pepper shakers in restaurants. Ick.
What precautions do you take when visiting the pediatrician or other public places? Are you a germaphobe or do you just take your chances?