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Surviving the public bathroom

December 29, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Avoiding contact with public bathroom fixtures doesn't make you a card-carrying germophobe.

"You should avoid contact with any surface because it might be contaminated by someone who did not wash their hands," said Kathy Morrisey, director of infection control at Washington County Hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dirty hands are the root cause of many infectious diseases, and people aren't doing enough to keep their hands clean.

For Morrisey, the rule when using public bathrooms is: Don't touch anything.

Here are more tips for staying sanitary:

- Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds. "Sing 'Jingle Bells' or 'The ABCs' if you have to," Morrisey said.

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- If there's a lever for the paper towel dispenser, pull down the paper towel before you wash your hands. That way you don't have to touch it with your clean hands. You can also use that same paper towel to turn off the water, Morrisey said.

- While most hand sanitizers are effective, Morrisey said she prefers the ones that are alcohol-based.

- Having trouble finding a good public bathroom? Reviewers at Bathroom Diaries rate restrooms from around the world online, giving "golden plungers" to the best-of-the-best. The Borders in Hagerstown received a "good" rating. See other ratings at www.bathroomdiaries.com.

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