CLEVELAND -- We take pride in our cars, and who doesn't love one that is all spick-and-span?
But don't let that squeaky clean look deceive you. Hitching on for a ride can be all sorts of bacteria, mold, viruses and dust mites. This can really make a difference during the flu and allergy seasons.
Jill Holdsworth is an infection preventionist and is president of the DC Metro Chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. She says the car can be a very big place to pass bacteria back and forth if you are not careful.
"The No. 1 hot spots would be anywhere that you touch with your hands," Holdsworth said. These areas include the steering wheel, radio, gear shift, cup holders and car seats.
Car interiors are often overlooked for disinfecting and deep cleaning.
A study conducted several years ago by experts at Queen Mary University in London shows an average of 700 different kinds of bacteria within car interiors, compared to 60 types in the average public toilet.
"I would always keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer," Holdsworth said. "I would always keep a disinfectant wipe."
Keep wipes in the car and wipe down the common areas regularly.
If you don't disinfect, those germs in your car can easily spread the cold and flu viruses along with gastrointestinal illnesses like norovirus.
APIC just launched a "Infection Prevention and You" website to provide information about preventing infections: www.apic.org/infectionpreventionandyou. The site provides lots of consumer tips for infection prevention at home, in public and in healthcare facilities.
Holdsworth conducted a car interior germ test and the results will astound you.