We are in the thick of cold season. Are you trying to protect yourself from catching a common cold? That question may be irrelevant as it seems that the hygiene habits of your fellow human, or lack thereof, are a significant factor in how likely you are to get the sniffles.
A new online survey by Zicam and Wakefield Research (a market research & PR polling firm) found 56% of American respondents admitted to wiping their boogers anywhere except on a tissue (that number is from a pool of 1,000 respondents from “a nationally representative pool of adults 18+” in major cities). Look around you. Over of the people you see have picked their nose and wiped it somewhere. The three most popular places, according to the survey, to wipe are on their clothing, on their desk or on their couch. Lovely, eh?
John Swartzberg, MD at UC Berkeley School of Public Health and Chair of the Editorial Board at UC Berkeley Wellness Letter tells Yahoo Health that touching someone else’s boogers is an excellent way to get sick.
“We know that rhinovirus and several other respiratory viruses are transmitted by inanimate objects. Touching even a pencil and then your mucus membranes will transmit the virus,” Swartzberg confirms.
Less popular, to the relief of citizens in New York City and Chicago, were wiping it on one’s seat on public transportation and also wiping it on a doorknob – although, troublingly, both of these options did come up.
When it comes to the workplace, 63% of people in this survey felt it was unprofessional to come to work with a cold. They’ve noticed their workmates less-than-stellar cold hygiene as well, with a massive majority of 73% saying they’ve seen a co-worker sneeze without covering their nose and 22% saying they’ve witnessed a co-worker blow their nose on their sleeve. Sorry to blow your cover, but your stealth snot-wiping has not gone unnoticed.
That is not where people’s fairly gross habits end when it comes to colds. Only 54% of respondents would avoid kissing their significant others if their partner had a cold and only 31% would ask their partner to wash their hands before touching them. While it’s an awkward conversation, you can’t be sure that someone you live with has contracted the same cold you have so you might want to put the kibosh on kissing.
“You should avoid all kissing,” Schwartzberg says. “It’s an easy way to transmit colds, mucus membrane to mucus membrane. Kissing on the cheek may not be much of a risk, but it also brings you in close proximity.”
If your SO gets offended, just tell them that if they really love you they’ll give you some space. And remind them not to wipe their boogers on the couch.
The best things you can do to protect yourself is wash your hands, which Dr. Schwartzberg strongly suggests you do frequently at all times of the year to increase your personal hygiene, and maintain your personal space away from people who are sick. And never, ever loan them a pen or pencil that you want back.