Could your car make you sick? Uncovering hidden germs

HOUSTON – Gym equipment, shopping carts, everything and every germ you touch in public, goes into your car before you ever drive home.

📺 WATCH: KPRC2 News Today

Professor Kevin Garey from the University of Houston is an expert on infectious diseases and he shows me where bacteria is most prevalent in your car.

“Where the humans are,” he said. “In these little crevices right here, for example… your gas pedal and obviously the brake too.”

Plus, he said, the car seats are likely covered in nasty germs.

“You could imagine compounding everything with a car seat because how often do you actually remove the car seat, clean well and bring it back again?” Professor Garey asked. “For many parents, even including myself, you can say never.”

Garey said that means the germs are accumulating over all the years the child sits in the car seat.

“That's compounded by the many illnesses that young children have, snotty noses that are being wiped,” Garey said. “That can accumulate over time.”

E.coli and staph infection are some common bacteria that could live in your car but Garey said he’s specifically looking for Clostridium difficile or C. Diff.

“I'd specifically be looking for C. Diff because that can cause disease in vulnerable people, the elderly, people recently hospitalized, with antibiotics, these types of persons.”

Our bodies are covered in germs and we are exposed to them all day long. Therefore, an ordinary exposure probably won’t kill you. However, it could harm someone with a weakened immune system. For example, someone coming home from a hospital stay, someone on long-term antibiotics, chemotherapy or having any chronic illness.

“So you might be taking a wipe here every now and then, but you're likely not wiping in between these crevices where dirt can also be, which would also be nice food for the bacteria,” Garey said pointing to the ridges on the gear shift.

Garey said simply vacuuming or taking a spray bottle and rag to hard-to-reach places inside your car can greatly reduce the number of germs in your car.

“Now, you're not eradicating them. There's still some there, but you're getting it to a low enough level that it generally won't cause disease in the vast majority of people,” he said.

If you’re looking to disinfect the car, it is safe to use disinfectant wipes on the steering wheel, dash and door handles. Here are some other cleaning recommendations from Auto Loan Solutions: https://www.autoloansolutions.ca/blog/4-tips-to-kill-germs-in-your-car/

Garey said the cleaner areas of your car are already the ones easy to wipe down. He thinks the real germs are living in the tiny details where dust and crumbs settle.

According to Tip Hero, covering a screwdriver with a rag can help dig down into the details of your car. An old toothbrush may also work well. Click here for more tips: http://tiphero.com/spring-clean-your-car/