By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  Are you a germaphobe?

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No one wants to get sick, but what makes sense and what doesn’t?

They’re everywhere: Invisible bacteria and viruses, on everything from phones and door knobs to purses and keyboards.

“It’s very scary, I’m so concerned. I can’t afford to get sick,” said Tanita Brockenbrough.

So the name of the game is avoiding germs. Think about all the hand sanitizer that’s around. Germaphobes work hard not to get sick.

Some people hold their breath when someone else sneezes. Does that help?

Yes, says Dr. Bruce McLeod, who is a doctor of emergency medicine.

“I think it’s kind of sensible.”

When someone sneezes, tiny droplets of germs fly into the air.

“You’re just trying to reduce the amount of virus that gets into your upper respiratory system – because that’s how you get infected,” he said.

At the gas station, many germaphobes wash their hands after filling up, which is a good idea.

“They’ve actually done some cultures – and it turns out the pump that you use on your gas is worse than a toilet seat!,” Dr. McLeod said.

In the bathroom, do you put down the toilet seat lid before you flush?

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“When you flush, there’s actually, it kind of billows up,” said Dr. McLeod.

There are tiny droplets we can’t see that can land elsewhere in your bathroom.

“And if you put the seat down, it kinda prevents it from coming up.”

Speaking of bathrooms, in a public restroom, is it better to use paper towels or a dryer?  Paper towels, because experts say your hands might not be totally clean after washing. Paper can help get rid of any remaining germs.

And with dryers: “What happens to the water that’s on your hands, that has the bacteria on it, it gets blown all over the place,” Dr. McLeod said.

But some say the fear of germs can get blown out of proportion.

“We worry and focus too much about germs,” said Dr. Herb Cushing, an infectious disease specialist at Temple Health.

He even thinks it’s ok to eat food that’s fallen on the floor. The five second rule says it’s ok as long as it’s picked up quickly.

“The bacteria are not going to multiply so fast in five seconds on the floor that they’ll contaminate whatever you dropped. It’s just not possible.”

And then there’s hand shaking — another germaphobe no-no.  But Doctor Cushing said a handshake is fine, as long as you keep your hands away from your face, and wash them later. When you do wash your hands, make sure you use soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. And you don’t have to use anti-bacterial soap. Regular soap will do.



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Stephanie Stahl