It happens all the time: One family member gets the flu, and before you know it, everyone else has it too. Flu germs can spread even before symptoms appear, and you can infect others up to a week after you first become sick. By practicing a few simple rules at home, you can help keep your family healthy and prevent the flu from spreading.
Sanitize “Touchy” Surfaces
Know the facts: Flu viruses can live for two to eight hours on hard surfaces. So it’s no surprise that many people get infected by touching a germy household doorknob, light switch, or remote control. Disinfect these surfaces frequently, using sanitizing antiviral wipes. If you don’t have wipes on hand, spray those germ-catchers with white vinegar, and then dry with paper towels.
Wipe Your Feet
Flu viruses and bacteria can hang out in mud, dirt, and debris, and once that muck gets stuck to your shoes, those germs can thrive in the treads. Keep a clean doormat outside every entrance to your home, and take off your shoes as soon as you enter the house. Go the extra mile and wash the soles of your shoes regularly with hot, soapy water.
Freshen the Phone
Another hidden hotbed of germ activity is one you frequently hold to your face—the phone. If a flu sufferer has touched, sneezed, or coughed on your phone, the next person to pick up the receiver could become infected. That’s just one reason why it is important to clean your phones frequently with antiviral wipes or sprays. Make it a habit to wipe off the phone every time you answer or hang up.
Detox Your Desk
Everyday surfaces like countertops, desks, and tabletops are hubs of activity, and as a result they are commonly contaminated with bacteria and viruses. Indeed, some health experts say that your home desk can contain up to 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat! To prevent those bad bugs from getting transferred to your hands, wipe down household surfaces often and be particularly conscientious about disinfecting any surfaces where food is prepped or served.
Decontaminate the Kitchen
Stovetops, cutting boards, sinks, faucets, dishcloths, and sponges are all breeding grounds for germs. Wipe down kitchen surfaces daily, and run cutting boards and sponges through a sanitizing cycle on the dishwasher to eliminate contamination. Alternatively, you can clean sponges in the microwave—one minute on high should do the trick. Replace used kitchen towels and dishcloths with fresh ones daily.
Stop Dragging Germs Around
Dust rags, mops and other cleaning tools may just be spreading germs around your house instead of eliminating them. If you don’t sanitize and disinfect your mops and other cleaning tools between uses, you may be giving germs and viruses a free ride throughout your home. Wash all cleaning gear in hot, soapy water after use; a drop or two of bleach will do for disinfecting. You may also want to switch to disposable cleaning cloths during the height of flu season.
Launder Your Linens
Your washer and dryer can be powerful allies in the war on germs. Wash bed linens, towels, and rugs frequently in hot water to keep bacteria at bay. If you’re in the market for new appliances, maximize the cleaning power of your laundry room arsenal by looking for models whose ability to sanitize clothing has been certified by NSF International.
Humidify Your Home
The moisture that a cold- or warm-mist humidifier adds to the air can help deter the spread of cold and flu viruses. Air that is in a healthy humidity range—that is, 40 to 50 percent relative humidity year-round (slightly lower in colder months)—also creates a more comfortable home environment and helps prevent your nasal passages from drying out.