I touched someone else's vomit. Should I worry?
February 4, 2007 11:16 PM   Subscribe

I touched someone else's vomit. Should I worry?

So, someone decided to get sick all over the pump at the gas station... the same pump I pulled up to and parked at. Unfortunately, I didn't realize some had splattered on the nozzle handle until after I grabbed it.

I didn't bathe my hands in it or anything, but I did get a small amount on a few fingertips. And, since it was late at night, the attendant at the gas station had already closed up shop and didn't care to let me in to wash my hands ("Hey, someone puked all over Pump #6," didn't elicit much reaction, either). So, it wasn't until I got home ten minutes later that I finally had the opportunity to wash my hands.

I took extra care not to touch my nose, mouth, or face in the interim, but I obviously had to touch the steering wheel, the gear shift, door handles, etc. Is it necessary to disinfect these surfaces? Should I even be concerned? I know that touching blood or feces is generally a bad idea, but what about vomit? Any nurses out there with thoughts?

Generally, I wouldn't worry much about something like this, but I'm embarking on a road trip in a couple of days and would rather not get ill along the way.
posted by jal0021 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, it's Saturday night so hopefully it's just some drunk person's vomit. Usually public vomit is caused by drunks, rather then someone with the flu or something like that.
posted by delmoi at 11:26 PM on February 4, 2007

You're fine, except you might want to keep an eye on any emergent symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ;)
posted by Phanx at 11:42 PM on February 4, 2007 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't worry too much about this. As a medical intern and resident I was puked on more times than I care to count. Nothing bad every happened.

Although vomit can have nasties in it, like the AIDS virus and hepatitis, as long as you don't get it in a wound or your eye or some other orifice, you'll usually be all right.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:48 PM on February 4, 2007

If you're feeling icky about it...just take a clorox wipe to the vehicle's interior bits, it may do some good. At least you'll feel better psychologically.
posted by Asherah at 11:52 PM on February 4, 2007

You can get many diseases from touching someone elses vomit. Assuming that they have LOTS of blood in their vomit, and you have a cut on your hand. Aside from that, you could probably safely eat the vomit or use it as hair gel and be perfectly fine.
posted by parallax7d at 12:01 AM on February 5, 2007

Isn't that how Ebola spreads?
posted by IvyMike at 12:22 AM on February 5, 2007

I've been vomited on plenty, you're fine. Quit worrying.
posted by fire&wings at 1:23 AM on February 5, 2007

Isn't that how Ebola spreads?

No. Ignoring the fact that they're not going to be in Colorado at all, someone who is passing sufficient Ebola virus in their (bloody) vomit is certainly not going to be standing up and pumping gas on a Saturday night.

You should be fine.

But since this skeeves you out, perhaps take this as a reminder to get your hepatitis shots. A Twinrix series isn't terribly expensive, and it will make you effectively immune to two fairly serious (and preventable) diseases. So, when you slip on the puddle of vomit and land in the polluted river, you'll have one less thing to be concerned about.
posted by toxic at 1:43 AM on February 5, 2007

Although vomit can have nasties in it, like the AIDS virus and hepatitis, as long as you don't get it in a wound or your eye or some other orifice, you'll usually be all right.

When I was a kid, we had the usual question on the Health test: "What is one way that HIV can be transmitted from person to person?" I wasn't sure, so I answered, "By vomiting on an open wound." I now feel less bad about my answer, although I remember thinking the teacher was more fascinated by how that could happen than anything else.
posted by metaculpa at 1:51 AM on February 5, 2007

Well, it's too late now, but a very handy thing I keep in my car is a package of baby wipes in a plastic container. Very handy if I eat lunch in my car, or any time I want to "wash" my hands. Also useful for wiping off interior car surfaces. I doubt they'd be germ-killing, but they are oogie-killing. Highly recommended to have 'just in case', along with a box of tissue and some water.
posted by Savannah at 6:57 AM on February 5, 2007

My wife says I'm only encouraging the evolution of superbacteria, but I keep one of those Purell bottles in my glove compartment for just such an occasion.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:55 AM on February 5, 2007

Considering all the people that touch most surfaces (door knobs, public phones, money, gas pumps, etc) this is probably the least of your worries. If you are paranoid about catching something always wear latex gloves and a quality respirator. Otherwise, the chances are good that you will catch something, somewhere.
posted by JJ86 at 7:58 AM on February 5, 2007

Personally, I think that supervirus theory is BS, M.C. Lo-Carb!. If it is even possible for microorganisms to develop "resistance" to 100+ proof ethanol, they have long since done so before Purell ever came on the scene (hint - the generic versions are way cheaper if you're not already on to that and they are exactly the same). Same with bleach, iodine and any other major topical antiseptic. These things are not at all the same as, say, antibiotics.
posted by nanojath at 10:16 AM on February 5, 2007

Thanks for the answers, folks. Like I said, I typically wouldn't worry about something like this (I'm far from a hypochondriac), but it's not every day you stick your hands in someone else's vomit. That, and I just got over a nasty cold, so I'd rather not pick up some new bug if I can help it... especially with the trip coming up.

Anyway, I'm not showing any Ebola symptoms yet, so I suppose I'm in the clear. I will get a bottle of hand sanitizer for the car, however... it seems like a good thing to have on hand when traveling.
posted by jal0021 at 10:17 AM on February 5, 2007

Most gas stations have restrooms, and you can wash your hands with lots of soap and running water.
posted by theora55 at 2:47 PM on February 5, 2007

Personally, I think that supervirus theory is BS, M.C. Lo-Carb!

Indeed. I have heard it explained that it's not so much developing resistance, as it is losing cell parts (organelles?) so it can't metabolize it. So, yeah - it's safe from antibiotics in the way people with no arms can't be handcuffed.

posted by niles at 10:17 PM on February 5, 2007

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