by Sara Tipton
Until we ourselves get sick or we have to nurse a loved one back to health from the flu, we never think about those germs living on surfaces in our homes. In fact, some of the household items you touch every day are 1,000 times dirtier than your toilet!
When we come down with a sickness, it often runs through our minds that we may not have as clean of a house as we imagine we do, but there’s a few simple tips and tricks you can employ to make sure you’re killing the flu virus before it can sicken you or your children!
On average, flu viruses are capable of being transferred to hands and causing an infection that can survive on hard surfaces for 24 hours; and that includes those tightly packed spaces such as airplanes. But the flu can be waiting for you at the terminal too before you even board the aircraft. According to the Los Angeles Times, a new study has confirmed once again that various surfaces in the cabin of a commercial plane have many times the number of bacteria than an average kitchen counter. But the latest study found that surfaces in airport terminals can have even higher germ counts than those in the planes. The highest number of colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch were found on those increasingly popular self-serve ticketing kiosks that are popping up in terminals around the country, including Los Angeles International Airport.
According to Medical Xpress, those plastic trays used at airport security checkpoints have been found to harbor the highest levels of viruses at airports, in a new scientific investigation by pandemic experts. The investigation into infectious viruses at airports was published in BMC Infectious Diseases, concludes that hand washing and careful coughing hygiene are crucial to the control of contagious infections in public areas with high volumes of people passing through.
The good news is that cold and flu germs can only live about 15 minutes on a used tissue and they survive even shorter periods on your hands. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to make a dent in all of those nasty germs stuck on surfaces at the airport, except encourage your children to wash their hands frequently and well while you travel and keep those hands away from their little faces. But at home, there are some natural and more effective ways you can clean your home that could help you kill many more of those icky flu viruses. Once you begin to feel those first signs of a cold or the flu and you realize your home is probably infested with those same germs, it’s time to start cleaning with a focus on ridding your home of those viruses.
Some experts suggest a quarantine in one room of the sickened person, but as a mother, I find this difficult when my child is sick. But I do wrap them with their favorite blanket, make them some warm tea, and prop them up in the corner of our sectional couch where they can watch movies. The flu spreads when the sick person coughs, sneezes, or even talks, affecting people as far as 6 feet away, but we moms tend to take our chances when our kids get sick. Children need to feel loved and attended to when they are sick and it’s a personal choice of mine to not “quarantine” them; I’d rather take my chances. But flu germs are also spread by touching a surface that has flu viruses on it. And once you’ve got a sick person settled in for a while, it’s time to start focusing on cleaning.
Take care to not spread the germs instead of wiping them away. First, disinfect surfaces that the sick person has touched, paying special attention to the sick person’s bedroom and bathroom. Use an antibacterial cleaner on key spots such as tabletops, countertops, remote controls, computer keyboards, doorknobs, sinks, light switches, faucet handles, sinks, countertop, tub, and toilet (including the entire seat and the toilet handle). Once you’ve cleaned an area, you’ll want to make sure you sanitize your rag or mop with 1/2 cup bleach in one gallon of water before moving onto the next area to make sure you’re not just spreading the virus around your home. While the flu is in your home, consider using disposable paper towels or germ-grabbing microfiber cloths for cleaning. Just remember to wash microfiber cloths daily and after every use.
A sick person’s towels, bedding, and clothes (and the clothes of the caregiver) are full of the germs that got them sick, so don’t “hug” dirty clothes as you take them to the washer. This could spread the germs onto you. Instead, transport dirty clothes in a laundry basket and wash your hands after loading them into the washer. Wash clothing with color safe bleach and be sure you clean your washing machine with bleach to kill any lingering viruses after you’ve washed all the clothes.
If bleach just doesn’t work for you, there are more natural options that can be just as effective. The Maid Brigade put together three recipes that are effective and lean a lot more natural:
- Natural Disinfectant For Cleaning: use this on floors, countertops, bathtubs, toilets, walls, and baseboards. Fill a bucket with 1/2 gallon hot water and 1/4 cup Borax. Mix and clean well.
- Natural Disinfectant Spray: add 4 to 8 drops of essential oil to 1 cup distilled water in a spray bottle. Shake and spray! Examples of oils with anti-fungal properties are eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, and tea tree oil.
- Natural Disinfectant For Bathroom: combine 1/2 cup white vinegar, 2 cups hot water, 1 teaspoon washing soda, and 10 drops tea tree oil. Pour into a spray bottle, mix, and start spraying!
Hopefully, these easy tips will help you prevent the spread of the flu in the unfortunate circumstance that you or a family member comes down with the dreaded sickness.