With the upcoming flu season and the current global concerns over the H1N1 pandemic, it is a good time to consider our germ busting regime for the season to best keep your loved ones as healthy as you can. Not all the areas of your home that you'd consider to be dirty even make it onto the list of the worst areas; many people would consider the toilet the dirtiest place in their home, but in reality most people disinfect their toilet more than any other area in their home.
With all the concerns about H1N1, or swine flu, it is important to realize that viruses can remain on surfaces they have been deposited on for two to eight hours and be picked up by other people, possibly infecting them. The influenza virus can be killed by high heat (170F - 212F) as well as chemicals like chlorine bleach, soap, and alcohol IF used properly.
One of the worst offenders for passing on bacteria and viruses in your home is on handles; door handles, drawers, cabinet handles... they're all breeding grounds for bacteria and holding spaces for viruses in your home. Everyone in your home touches a great amount of handles in your home every day and they're one of the most overlooked areas in your home for cleaning. It's a good idea to give the handles in your house all a wipe with a disinfectant cloth, more frequently during flu season.
Your kitchen sink can be a breeding ground not for flu, but for bacteria such as E coli and salmonella; many people do not disinfect their kitchen sink on a regular basis, thinking possibly that the act of washing that takes place in it keeps it clean. In the real world, however, those little bits of food and grease that are often left behind can make you sick. The best way to wash your kitchen sink is to give it a good scrub and then rinse it with a bleach solution. A tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water should be ample.
Another area that people seem to think is a clean area of the home is the bathtub when in reality the bathtub can be a haven for staph bacteria. Give your bathtub a thorough washing once a week, but if there are multiple people using the bathtub to soak in it is a good idea to give it a spray with some tub cleaner or a weak bleach solution after you drain it. Rinse it with clean water when you're done and dry it with a towel to keep it bacteria-free.
One area that you might be surprised to hear about being a hothouse for bacteria is inside your showerhead; the researchers at the University of Colorado have done a study on bacterial growth on the inside of showerheads and come up with some surprising news. Apparently, your showerhead can be a breeding ground for mycobacterium avium which becomes aerosolized in the water which can then allow you to breathe it in. For most people this isn't much of a worry, but for those who have a compromised immune system it can cause lung infections. The best solution for this—according to the study—is to use a showerhead with all metal parts that the bacteria can't hold on to and periodically soak the parts of the showerhead in a bleach solution to kill the bacteria.
It is a good idea to remember that any part of your home that gets a lot of handling such as remote controls, telephones, computer keyboards, and other areas, are all likely to retain a lot of bacteria and whichever viruses that you bring into the home. Try to use disinfecting wipes, bleach solutions, or alcohol cleaners on these areas where ever possible to keep the germs at bay as best you can.
It is also good common sense to take care of your own health by washing your hands after touching anything that is handled by other people and before eating or touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can help almost as well as soap and water, so keep some handy. Try to avoid anyone who's feeling under the weather and if you fall ill it's best to stay home until it's been 24 hours since you've felt better to reduce the likelihood of you infecting anyone.
The better the precautions that you take in your home and work space, the more likely it will be that your family will stay healthier during this flu and cold season.
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