Manners Matter: Germ Exposure in Public Places

Dear Mary Pat,

I’m back at the gym for the new year along with the rest of the county, and it feels great to be back in my routine. The only thing I don’t like about being back is being exposed to a few people coughing and sneezing. Why do people come to the gym when they’re sick and expose the rest of us to their germs? Yuck. I feel as though I should start wearing a mask anytime I leave my house in the winter.


Would Prefer to Stay Healthy 

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Dear Would Prefer to Stay Healthy,

I hear you loudly and clearly. I don’t understand this either. However, we don’t always know when people are sick versus being afflicted with allergies. Or maybe they were very sick and are mostly better but still have a little bit of a cough.  

I’m sorry to have to remind you that you will be exposed to other people’s germs in addition to those at the gym. Because you can control only what you do, however, you have to go on the offensive by practicing a few good preventive steps:

1. Wash your hands routinely.

2. Wipe down the fitness equipment you’re about to use. Don’t assume the previous users have done it for you as they should have. Also be sure to wipe the buttons that everyone touches to turn the machines on and off.

3. Wipe down the equipment you just used before you move on to the next station. Again, also be sure to wipe the buttons that everyone touches to turn the machines on and off.

4. Don’t put your hands on your face, especially near your eyes or mouth.

5. Take a shower right after your workout.

6. Avoid people who are not using their “cough/sneeze catcher” (the crook of their arm versus their hands).

7. Avoid shaking hands and giving high-fives during flu season. If you can’t leave anyone hanging, then be sure to wash your hands before touching your face.

If everyone followed these steps, there would be a lot fewer germs being shared.

Good luck,

Mary Pat