Flu season: How to keep your home germ-free
THE tell-tale sounds of winter are in the air, and along with the cold chill, there’s a complement of coughing, sneezing and sniffling.
Trying to avoid catching the flu takes a lot of effort on your part — you constantly wash your hands, keep a safe distance from anyone who is sick, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and carry an arsenal of germ-killing hand sanitiser.
While all these steps are important, one more step is necessary in the ongoing battle against flu, and that involves getting rid of flu germs that lurk on surfaces throughout your house.
Develop a battle strategy While getting the flu vaccine every year is the first line of defense against catching the influenza virus, there are other preventive cleaning steps you can take to ensure you stay as healthy as possible this winter.
The following cleaning list is also effective in preventing other viruses that are not covered by the flu vaccine such as cold and stomach viruses.
The influenza A and B viruses can live and survive on household surfaces - from anything from a few hours to several days. That means that it pays to be extra vigilant when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting your home during flu season.
Here’s how to win the battle
1. When it comes to zapping flu germs, homeowners should disinfect surfaces, not just clean them. Cleaning physically removes dirt and germs, while disinfecting kills the germs.
2. It’s important to ramp up your disinfecting routine during the flu season — even before someone in your home comes down with the flu. That’s because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people may be able to spread flu germs to other people one day before coming down with any symptoms.
Moreover, it’s also important to note that the flu continues to be contagious five to seven days after you become sick.
3. When it comes to disinfecting your house, clean the surfaces first to remove excess dirt, crumbs, etc. Once that’s done, follow through by disinfecting your surfaces.
4. When cleaning surfaces touched by a sick person, always use disposable paper towels instead of sponges and dishcloths.
5. Common surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, cabinet pulls, and electronic devices need to be disinfected regularly.
6. Clean and disinfect bathroom surfaces daily. Don’t neglect forgotten areas like the toilet handle and medicine cabinet door or handle.
7. Avoid storing toothbrushes together and don’t use the same toothpaste as someone who has been sick. 8. Use paper towels or assign each family member their own hand towel to use after washing their hands in the bathroom.
9. Launder bed linen and blankets often during the winter months. Homeowners should pay special attention to sheets that have been exposed to sick family members. These should be washed and dried on the hot setting.
When removing soiled linen, avoid having them come in contact with your clothing.
Hugging a heap of laundry close to your body puts you at a higher risk for contamination.
Don’t forget to wash your hands immediately after handling dirty laundry. 10. If a member of your household has the flu, try to contain them to one room, as far away from the common living areas as possible. The same goes for bathrooms. If possible, designate one bathroom to be used by the sick person. It’ll be easier to stay on top of the germs if they’re confined to one area.
11. Routinely wash eating utensils in a dishwasher or by hand with soap and hot water. Wash and dry bed sheets, towels and other linen as you normally do with household laundry soap, according to the fabric labels.
Eating utensils, dishes and linen used by a sick person don’t need to be cleaned separately, but they should not be shared unless they’ve been washed thoroughly.
There’s no need to panic this flu season. By routinely disinfecting areas in your house, you can help keep the germs to a minimum.
Keeping your home flu-free takes extra work on your part, but it’s worth it.
Keep your home germ-free Winter is quickly approaching and along with the cold temperatures, it brings with it an unwelcome guest, the flu.
Don’t sit back and wait for the inevitable to happen, take a proactive approach to flu prevention.
Besides covering your mouth when you sneeze and cough, washing your hands often and staying clear of anyone who is sick will slow the spread of flu.
As mentioned, disinfecting and sanitising surfaces will kill the germs, but to do this, you’ll need a disinfectant. Here’s how to make and use your own home sanitiser:
1. Add 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) of water.
For a bigger supply of disinfectant, add ¼ cup of bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
2. Apply the solution to the surface with a cloth.
3. Let it stand for 3 to 5 minutes. 4. Rinse the surface with clean water.
Questions to ask when disinfecting your home this flu season
1. How can I tell if a household cleaning product kills germs?
Look for the words disinfect, disinfectants, antibacterial or sanitise on the product label.
2. How many bacteria does it take to make people sick?
It’s difficult to provide the exact number. To minimise the risk of getting sick, wash your hands frequently and disinfect surfaces on a regular basis.
3. What’s the difference between plain and antibacterial soap used in the home?
Antibacterial soaps contain a special ingredient for controlling germs. When washing with an antibacterial soap, a small amount of antibacterial ingredient is deposited on the skin that keeps the number of germs at a significantly reduced level for an extended period of time.
Washing with plain soap initially removes some germs, but the germs left on the hands can quickly grow and increase in number.
When it comes to zapping flu germs, homeowners should disinfect surfaces, not just clean them.