5 Germ Myths: The Truth Uncovered | Muse Health

5 Germ Myths: The Truth Uncovered | Muse Health

  Hygiene 101       Germs and Protection  

To some people, germs might be as supernatural as the Loch Ness monster or the tooth fairy. We hear about germs and bacteria all the time and even make efforts to get rid of them, but hardly any of us have actually seen these microscopic menaces with our own eyes. We certainly feel their impact when we get sick—but what are germs, anyway?

The ambiguous word “germ” often refers to several categories of microorganisms which are capable of penetrating, living, and sometimes thriving in our bodies. Bacteria, viruses, protozoans, fungi, and helminths (tapeworms) are all examples of germs. Each type of germ is built differently and can have varying impacts on the human body.

Due to their elusive nature to us humans, germs have developed a mysterious reputation amongst many people, as was certainly the case during the terrible Black Plague of the middle ages—or, more recently, the coronavirus. In reality, countless healthcare professionals and CDC experts have studied germs closely to understand them better and to help separate the fact from the fiction. Let’s debunk five of the most common germ misconceptions to clean the air!

Myth 1: All Germs Are Bad

Although it might be tempting (and convenient) to label all microscopic organisms capable of entering our bodies as sinister, it turns out that simply isn’t the case. There are many types of germs—mostly in the bacteria family—which are not only harmless to their human hosts, but are also beneficial and sometimes crucial. Germs which help us rather than hinder us are known as probiotics.

One prime example of a frequent probiotic is the bacterium known as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which is commonly found swimming in milk. When you drink milk or eat a milk product such as cheese or yogurt, Lactobacillus Acidophilus enters your intestines and helps digest your food, kills off a few types of infectious diseases, and can even be a good cure for diarrhea.

Another great source of probiotics is found commonly in apple cider vinegar. Known by its nickname “the mother,” these dozens of strains of healthy bacteria are one of the reasons why apple cider vinegar is seen as a top-tier nutrition choice when used appropriately. When these probiotics enter your digestive track, they compete against the bad bacteria for resources, which in turn kills off the unwanted guests and leaves your immune system in tip-top shape!

Myth 2: Hand Dryers Are Better Than Paper Towels

Imagine you have just finished up in a public restroom and are getting ready to wash your hands. As the soap water runs over your palms, you spot a paper towel dispenser right next to a hand dryer. Which one do you choose? Or, as a better question: which one should you choose?

While many people certainly prefer the touch-free solution of air drying, a study in 2012 discovered that paper towels are actually the cleaner choice. Why? Friction is an essential part of the handwashing experience, as it scrubs the bacteria out of your hand’s pores and hair follicles (especially when using hot water). Once on the surface of the skin, the bacteria get trapped and “deactivated” by the chemicals of the soap water. Wiping up with a paper towel properly sheds the dead germs off your hands while dislodging any remaining invaders which managed to hang on. Hand drying skips this last step—and rubbing your hands together under the air might only spread the evasive germs even more.

There’s also the convenience factor. Hand dryers can take a minute or two to fully dry your hands, and most people are not willing to wait around that long. As a result, they end up wiping their damp hands on their clothes, which is a quick way to invite bacteria back to your clean skin. Paper towels tend to dry your hands faster and more efficiently than hand dryers.

Myth 3: The Only Way to Catch a Cold is Through Airborne Germs

As much as this myth would cut down on the number of colds we experience every year if it was true, reality sadly doesn’t hold up. The common cold can come about by bacteria on the surfaces you touch just as much as from the particles drifting through your air conditioning. Sneezes don’t help either, especially when guests in your home can’t find a tissue to use.

Why do we get colds when we stay out in the rain too long then? Or when we’re outside in cold temperatures? The reason has less to do with the airborne bacteria in the atmosphere and more to do with your weaker immune system in frigid environments. In cold weather, your body works hard to produce enough heat to ward off frostbite, which diverts a lot of energy away from your immune system. These circumstances often create great heist opportunities for any of the germs you do manage to pick up out there.

Myth 4: The 5 Second Rule

We’ve all heard of the five-second rule at some point or another. If you’re eating a delicious snack and it falls to the floor, picking it up within five seconds doesn’t give the harmful bacteria on the floor enough time to hitch a ride, allowing you to safely continue your snack. Food safety at its finest. No big deal, right?

This one is half true, half myth. Although it is true that bacteria can’t instantly teleport onto your food the moment it touches the ground, the process can be much faster than five seconds in most cases. A lot of the risks you take when eating food off the floor comes down to numerous variables: one study found that everything from the type of food itself to the cleanliness of the surface it falls on will make for different threat levels of cross contamination. Wet foods like ice cream are a greater risk and are likely to gain faster traction with the microbes than dry foods.

Bottom line: bacteria is everywhere. It’s usually best to just err on the side of safety, toss your chip in the garbage, and save yourself the possibility of food poisoning, salmonella, or bacterial disease. Trust us: that chip isn’t worth risking your health with foodborne illness!

Myth 5: Sitting on a Public Toilet Seat Can Get You Sick

We couldn’t finish up our myth-busting list without bringing up this old wives' tale! To cover the toilet seat or not to cover the toilet seat? A troublesome question which has plagued many public bathroom users.

Here’s the good news: ultimately, it doesn’t make a huge difference. The skin on your bottom isn’t the best method for pathogens to get inside you, so touching it to a toilet seat isn’t a sizeable risk. In fact, you’re much more likely to experience infection from touching the germy toilet with your hand or pulling the flush handle.

That’s because the best points of entry for germs are found in your eyes and mouth, primarily. When foreign bacteria climb aboard your hands from all the different things you touch throughout the day, all it takes is a single face rub to give germs an all-access pass to your body. Ergo, the importance of handwashing.

Muse Health’s Germ-Busting Formula

Sometimes you might find yourself picking something off the floor, touching a dirty surface, or going most of the day without wiping your hands clean. Getting dirty can be inevitable. Most restrooms have sinks and soap to wash your hands, but what if you don’t need to use the bathroom? How often do you find a toilet just to get the germs off your hands—if there’s even a facility available?

For situations when hand rinsing isn't feasible, a quality hand sanitizer is a boon to carry around. Muse Health’s own Fragrance-Free Hand Sanitizer contains the right amount of ethyl alcohol to kill 99.9% of germs while also keeping your skin rejuvenated with natural oils. Bust the myths of harmful hand sanitizer products with Muse Health’s top-of-the-line brand!