Before you panic, arm yourself.
1. Ask for your beverage without a lemon or lime…or any other garnish the staff can put his or her hands on. B.Y.O.Olives?
2. Never let a menu touch your plate or silverware. And wash your hands after you place your order. A recent study in the Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces. If it’s a popular establishment, hundreds of people could be handling the menus.
3. Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the condiment bottle or use a disinfectant wipe before you grab it. Holding the bottle with a napkin won’t help; napkins are porous, so microorganisms can pass right through.
It’s the rare eatery that regularly bleaches its condiment containers. And the reality is that many people don’t wash their hands before eating.
4. Don’t think you can escape the restroom without touching the door handle? Palm a spare paper towel after you wash up and use it to grasp the handle. Yes, other patrons may think you’re a germo-phobe — but you’ll never see them again, and you’re the one who won’t get sick.
P.S. The center stall has more bacteria than those on either end, according to unpublished data collected by Gerba. No, you won’t catch an STD from a toilet seat. But you can contract all manner of ills if you touch a germy toilet handle and then neglect to wash your hands thoroughly. Best place: Pick a stall all the way left or right to minimize your germ exposure.