Weekends in the fall: Perfect for going to festivals or state fairs in New Jersey. And petting zoos are often attractions at these events.

But even healthy animals carry germs — which means you can get sick after a visit.

Bruce Ruck, managing director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, said stomach-related illnesses such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting are often associated with touching goats, pigs, sheep and other petting zoo animals. Skin infections are also common.

Ruck said he can't stress enough the importance of washing your hands after touching the animals or being in the areas near them, especially if you're going to eat.

He said if there is no soap and water available, use an alcohol-based cleanser. Most of the farms usually keep these cleansers in stock for this reason.

He said you don't want to bring food or drinks to a petting zoo, in order to avoid contamination.

It's normal for your shoes to become dirtied or muddied at a petting zoo. Ruck advises taking your shoes off carefully and washing your hands.

"Make sure they are clean properly so you don't track any bacteria into your house and into your car," he adds.

Ruck also suggests taking an extra pair of shoes or boots with you, and putting soiled shoes into a plastic bag.

If you do feel sick after leaving a petting zoo, Ruck said, you can call the NJ Poison Center at 800-222-1222 for further recommendations. Depending on your symptoms and how sick you feel, you may have to see a physician or go to an emergency room.

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