Surprising Places You Didn’t Know You’re Likely to Get the Flu

You have to be living under a rock to not be on high alert this flu season. Unfortunately, your best efforts to stay healthy may not be enough! As it turns out, there are far more places you can catch the flu virus than you previously thought. Here are some of the more surprising places you can get the flu.

In your liquor cabinet

Bar

Alcohol only makes you more susceptible to the flu. | AlSimonov/iStock/Getty Images

You may think skipping a crowded bar and having a cocktail at home is a smart way to go during flu season. But it actually isn’t much better. As Health.com explains, alcohol dehydrates your body more rapidly, depleting your body of the water it needs to create germ-dispelling mucus. Plus, having multiple drinks in a short span of time weakens your immune system — which needs to be in tip-top shape during flu season.

Next: Another place where a vice can get you sick.

In the smoking section

Smoker smoking

Stay away from cigarettes, especially when you’re sick. | Terroa/iStock/Getty Images

Health.com tells us that smoking cigarettes kills hairs in your nasal passages and lungs that help to prevent viruses such as the flu from getting into your body. Additionally, chronic smokers are more susceptible to long-term respiratory problems.

Next: A place you probably thought was safe from the flu — but isn’t.

At your own sink

 sink in restaurant

Washing your hands thoroughly is key. | constantinopris/Getty Images

We’ve been instructed since we were young children that washing our hands plays a huge role in fighting off sickness. (Well, in addition to overall cleanliness, that is.) But your sink can’t help your ward off the flu if you don’t wash your hands properly. What’s worse, is that a CBS News report tells us that around 95% of people don’t wash their hands properly — making the spread of influenza a worse threat.

Next: And now for a place where that hand-washing can really come into play.

At your best friend’s house

Gray tiny home

Beware of how much human contact you have. | lawcain/iStock/Getty Images

OK, so the flu is wreaking havoc on every public place you go. But if you and your best buds aren’t sick, sticking together to have dinner parties in is a safe bet, right? Quite the contrary. Friendly gatherings mean hugs, handshakes, and keeping in close quarters with each other. And according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu virus can spread between individuals up to six feet away from each other.

Next: Even this remedy isn’t enough to keep healthy while out in public.

In your own bag

Girl holding brown bag

Yep, we’re serious. | iStock.com/Voyagerix

Don’t get us wrong — carrying hand sanitizer is a great idea, even when it isn’t flu season. Unfortunately, people use it as a crutch. “Alcohol can kill bacteria but not necessarily clean your hands,” LiveScience.com says. Plus, there are some viruses that alcohol-based sanitizer can’t combat. So mixing this method with solid hand-washing skills is still your best bet.

Next: This place is still a threat when people call out sick.

At your overly-stressful job

Stressed business woman in the office

Stress makes everything worse. | iStock.com/kieferpix

Even if your sick coworkers are smart and stay home from work when they come down with the flu, you’re still at risk of getting sick. As Health.com points out, high levels of stress caused by your job can weaken your immune system and put your body at risk no matter where you are. If you work in a perpetually stressful environment, it’s extra imperative to practice whatever methods keep you calm — and healthy!

Next: Even your work commute can be contagious.

In your shared ride

Lyft passengers and driver

You commuting buddy may carry the illness. | Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Lyft

Close quarters are the easiest places for the influenza virus to spread. (Remember that six-foot rule?) So while taking an Uber, Lyft, or other ride-sharing service to and from work may seem more sanitary than public transportation, the risk is still high. Some drivers are so worried themselves about getting sick due to a lack of health insurance coverage that they are reportedly wearing masks to prevent getting sick from passengers.

Next: Even if you have insurance, this next place isn’t exactly safe.

At the doctor’s office

Female doctor office

Even when you’re just trying to be safe. | iStock.com/megaflopp

Nobody goes to the hospital with the intention of getting sick. But as the CDC points out, health-related infections are incredibly common. And the flu virus is no exception. There are many practices that hospitals put into play to keep their patients and staff as healthy as possible. However, your doctor’s office is still not a flu-free zone.

Next: A place where you probably don’t think you’re surrounded by sick people.

Down the grocery aisle

Facing view of an aisle

Be mindful of what you touch. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

Grocery stores don’t just put you in close contact with people who could be carrying the food virus. Even if that person is more than six feet away from you, it’s possible that they touched the exact same cereal box that you just grabbed off the shelf. (And do we even have to mention how many people have touched the same shopping cart?) Some grocery stores offer hand wipes at their front doors, although it’s best to have that handy-dandy hand sanitizer with you as well.

Next: Even some of your favorite food isn’t safe.

At a restaurant

IHOP International House of Pancakes

A simple meal may be to blame. | Wolterk/Getty Images

It’s bad enough that restaurants put a lot of strangers — who potentially don’t wash their hands properly — in close quarters with each other. Add to that that many waiters and other members of the food industry don’t have paid sick leave and may be handling your food while carrying the flu virus. Best course of action? Try eating out as little as possible when influenza is at an all-time high.

Next: From the diner to the food court…

At the mall

sears entrance in mall

This place can be more dangerous than you think. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When it comes to spreading viruses, the mall is a lot like the grocery store. Even if you aren’t standing right next to someone who’s carrying the flu virus, you are potentially touching clothing and other items that an infected person touched or coughed on. And that’s even before you get the munchies and indulge in some mall food, which was potentially prepared by someone carrying the virus.

Next: One of the germiest places on the planet.

On an airplane

Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200 airplane Los Angeles International Airport

Everyone knows airplanes are breeding grounds for sickness. | Boarding1Now/iStock/Getty Images

The Cheat Sheet previously did a deep dive into the different places on an airplane that can hold all sorts of gross things. And you can bet that these nooks and crevices are harbor coughs and sneezes that spread the flu bug around like wildfire. Trust us — you’re better off not using the complimentary blanket and pillow.

Next: Another germ-infested cesspool. 

At the gym

Fitness gym

Be mindful of what you touch. | iStock.com/golubovy

Okay, so maybe this one isn’t such a big surprise. Gyms are regularly shamed for not being clean enough. And in addition to being a breeding ground for many disgusting conditions, it’s also a prime place for the flu virus to spread. Even New Year’s resolutions and flu season overlap, you’re better off sticking to an at-home workout that keeps you away from so many potentially sick people.

Next: A notorious place for getting sick.

Your child’s classroom

School classroom

Kids carry all sorts of sickness with them. | maroke/iStock/Getty Images

A classroom for kids mixes together all the worst components of places you can get the flu from. It puts you in close quarters with individuals — i.e. children — who are most likely not washing their hands properly or covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze. The little tykes aren’t just getting each other sick — they’re probably getting you sick as well.

Next: A place where a surgical mask is needed the most.

In an elevator

Business woman hand holding elevator door

Watch out what you touch. | CentralITAlliance/Getty Images

It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, or what kind of a building you are in. Heck, it doesn’t matter if you don’t press one of the floor buttons. The elevator puts you in very close proximity to individuals who are either sick or about to be. If there was ever a great time to start taking the stairs, flu season is it.

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