Who Can Get You Sick? The Germy Truth

We know that it’s easy to get germs from contact with other people, but lately we’ve been wondering if you need to actually touch something with the germs on it (say, the printer at your office after your sniffling co-worker used it) or if the germs live in the air and you can get sick just by breathing them in.

Unfortunately, it’s both.

Let’s start with the scary airborne germs first. When a sick person talks, coughs or sneezes, droplets go into the air that you can take in just by breathing. If you’re within three feet of the sick person, you’re at risk.

Terrifying. But rest assured that most germs are not spread this way. According to WebMD, 80% of infections are spread by touch—you place your hands on the same surface a sick person touched or you shake hands with someone who is fighting an illness. The scary thing about that—and the reason experts say you should be diligent about washing your hands—is that germs can live for several days on those surfaces.

That’s why experts recommend that if you’re coming down with something, stay home. If you do have to be out in public, cover your mouth and nose whenever you cough or sneeze to stop the spread of germs. And everyone—sick or well—should wash their hands regularly.

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Photo credit: filadendron

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