It's easy to be on guard against the flu whenever you're out and about, because every cough or sneeze can remind you to grab the hand sanitizer. But there's another area that can be infected as well, and that's your own abode. However, learning how to prepare your house for germs can potentially keep you and your family a little healthier this year. Thankfully, most of these tips are quick and simple, so they can just become a part of your regular routine.
First, though, it's great to know a little more about the flu virus itself and how it spreads. "Influenza virus is mostly spread by droplets when people sneeze, cough or speak. These tiny droplets can be inhaled or can land in the eyes or mouth, leading to infection," as B. Mark Landrum, M.D., an Infectious Diseases specialist with Johns Hopkins Regional Physicians, tells Romper via email. (Dr. Landrum's wife, Dianne J. Landrum, M.D., a pediatrician with The Pediatric Center in Columbia, Maryland, also offered input for this piece). "Flu virus can live on hard surfaces like countertops or toys for up to 24 hours, when we touch these objects and touch our faces, eyes, or nose, we can transmit the influenza directly," explains Dr. Landrum. To help protect your home against these pervasive flu germs, follow these simple steps.
1. Use Bleach Wipes
One of the most basic household cleaning supplies can be great at guarding your home against the flu. "Bleach wipes are the most effective way to kill the influenza virus," says Dr. Landrum, who also acknowledges that it isn't a perfect solution for every family. "For children, bleach can be irritating to skin or can exacerbate asthma," and it can also change the color of certain objects or surfaces. In homes where this isn't a concern, however, bleach is a wonderful cleaner.
2. Scrub With Soap & Water
Again, sometimes the simplest cleaning supplies are best. "The safest way to clean is with simple soap and water," says Dr. Landrum. "This physically removes dirt and germs from the area." Simply wiping down a counter or grimy spot on the wall with some warm soap and water can do wonders.
3. Target The Remote
Consider this highly touched household item. "If a child sneezes into her hand and touches the remote, the germs can get on the remote," said pediatrician Alanna Levine, MD, in WebMD. Blast it with the disinfectant spray (or your cleaner of choice) every week or so.
4. Clean Kid Stuff With Care
When kids are in the house, you have a whole extra set of things to clean (not that this is news to any parent). "With kids, pacifiers, sippy cups, teethers and firm toys are at risk" of contamination from flu or viral particles, says Dr. Landrum. Clean and/or sanitize your kid's stuff often to lower the risk of spreading flu germs in your home. For the tiniest tots, it's great to know how to properly sanitize your baby's items, as noted in Romper. For instance, some bath toys can be run through the dishwasher, whereas many fabric playthings can go for a spin in the washer and dryer.
5. Sanitize High-Touch Surfaces Carefully
In addition, anything that gets touched on a regular basis needs routine cleaning as well. "Adults should think about phones, writing utensils, keyboards or sports equipment as a source of shared viruses and clean these regularly," says Dr. Landrum. (Be right back, I'm off to spray my keyboard with disinfectant for several minutes straight.)
6. Consider Microfiber Cloths
It's easy to do the dishes, as well as wipe the counters and sink, all with the same sponge. But reconsider this particular cleaning tool. As it turns out, the trusty old kitchen sponge is quite possibly the dirtiest thing in your whole home, containing an unimaginable amount of bacteria, as Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, told TIME. A better choice? Use microfiber clothes for cleaning, then wash them daily, as noted by Today.
7. Focus On Hand Hygiene
Even in the home, it's so important to keep your hands clean during flu season. Wash your hands after contact with a potentially sick person, explains Dr. Landrum, or after picking up used tissues around the house (as parents so often do). By following this and the above simple tips, your home will be a much less welcome place for flu germs in no time.