Q. I am trying hard to avoid catching a cold or the flu. I was shocked to see the barista at the coffee shop grab my cup by the edge and then press the lid on with her palm. That wouldn’t be so bad if she hadn’t just made change. I wonder how many people get sick and never associate it with their coffee cup.

A. People have strong opinions about this issue. Many readers share your concern, especially if they want to sip from the cup through the lid. Others think it is silly to worry about germs on coffee cup lids.

It is relatively easy to transmit microbes via coffee cups. A study conducted at the University of Virginia demonstrated that half of the volunteers touching contaminated coffee cup handles caught colds (American Journal of Epidemiology, Nov. 1982).

Cold viruses can last up to several days on surfaces such as light switches, door handles, TV remotes, pens, faucets or phones (Journal of Medical Virology, Oct. 2007). Avoiding a cold or the flu requires washing hands and keeping them away from eyes, nose and mouth.

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  1. Sue T

    Most people might not think of using a straw with their paper coffee cups, but it is stored in a paper sleeve so there is much less opportunity for contamination. Of course, you’ve just had your hands on your cash or credit card, so it’s worth it to try to keep your hands off the tips of the clean straw as you take off the paper. I find that using the straw also helps avoid coffee spill accidents in the car.

  2. s.h.

    This article reminded me of a bad experience similar to this concerning cups at an eatery.
    A few years ago, my husband and I went to an eatery that had great food but bad hygiene. The people in front of us set their young toddler in DIAPERS on the counter. The drink cups—paper–were sitting on the counter area RIM SIDE DOWN. The counter person reached up and pulled off the top cups–and set them down, on the counter, rim down, right where the baby’s diapered bottom had been!
    My husband said, “Wait a minute. We’re not using those cups. Please get us new ones and do NOT set them down upside rim-down.” The twenty something year old worker looked shocked and asked why not.
    We told her why, and gave her a quick lesson about disease and hygiene.

  3. RR

    Make your own coffee at home. Save (a lot) of money and you do not have these concerns about virus and hand washing.

  4. cpns72

    I do notice some barista at some coffee shops to touch my cup top by edge by their fingers or hands that is my concern. I bring my large thermo beverage container to pour instead to drink from that cup from the baristas. I do not know if that helps but I have not gotten colds lately when I do that. I easily get sick from any germs. I gotta to avoid any people with colds, kids, animals. That helps because I always get sick with colds every year since for the first time no colds thanks to be germaphobic.

  5. fbl

    If your writer is taking vitamin C daily, a few times a day, and vitamin D, enough to get his/her blood level up to 60, s/he wouldn’t get colds or flu. I haven’t had a cold or flu since ’85 by using this preventative routine. Unfortunately it took me many years to get my level up. I have to take a huge amount of D!
    Yes, I have been exposed. I go to therapy 3X a week and we had a few people who were always sick and didn’t clean the exercise machines when they finished using them. I finally brought them some Grapefruit Seed Extract and they don’t get sick all the time now.
    Now my Chiropractor carries it and sells it to his patients!

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