You know the signs: stuffy nose, coughing, sneezing, aches, and pains all over your body--that's right, it's the dreaded flu! Each year, tens of thousands of people are infected by the virus. With so many people getting sick and spreading germs, it can be a challenge staying healthy during flu season, which typically runs from October into the spring.
Fortunately, there are a lot of preventative measures you can take to keep yourself and your family healthy. Take a look at a few ways that you can keep your home flu-free:
Disinfect Your Home
Flu germs and viruses can survive on household surfaces for up to 48 hours. They also love to lurk on the items we touch every day. Here are a few places in the home that are hot spots for germ activity:
- Cutting Boards
- Cleaning Sponges
- Door handles
- Light switches
The CDC has noted that cleaning products with chlorine, detergent, hydrogen peroxide, iodophors, or alcohol are highly effective at killing the flu virus. When you purchase household cleaners, look for items that have the words "disinfect" and "sanitize" on the label. This indicates that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tested its potency against germs.
If you're worried about the chemicals in household cleaners and want to explore natural alternatives, lemon juice, lavender oil, and oregano oil, have properties that kill microbes. However, these work much more slowly and don't kill as many microbes.
It's also important to keep your cleaning tools sanitized after use. Mops, toilet wands, and other cleaning tools can end up spreading germs around your home if you do not regularly disinfect them between uses.
You can sanitize your cleaning tools by washing them in hot, soapy bleach water. During flu season, you may want to switch to disposable cleaning cloths. You should also make sure that you are replacing your kitchen sponges at least every two weeks, as they can become a hotbed for bacteria growth.
You can also purchase a system like Puritize that can thoroughly and professionally sanitize your home to ensure no areas are missed and kills 99.9% of germs.
Health experts agree that the single best thing you can do to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated. Although it's not 100% effective, it's still your best defense against getting seriously ill. According to the CDC, everyone 6 months or older should get a flu shot. If you're worried about being stuck with a needle, you can ask your healthcare provider if they can offer you the nasal flu vaccine as an alternative.
You should schedule your family's flu vaccinations right before the start of the season, around October or November. However, you can get your flu shot at any time. The best part is that flu shots are now administered at many convenient locations such as grocery stores and pharmacies. You can schedule an appointment in advance, but walk-ins are also usually accepted.
Wash your Hands Frequently
Washing your hands often is an important part of protecting yourself against germs, bacteria, and viruses. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes into their hands and then they touch various surfaces or shake hands with other people, the virus can quickly spread from person to person. If you rub your eyes or touch your mouth or nose, viruses have a clear pathway to get inside of your body.
Regular handwashing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available, significantly reduces your chance of becoming infected.
Avoid Others Who are Sick
The flu virus is highly contagious, especially in the first few days after catching it. That's why it's best to ask friends and family members who may be ill to stay at home. The flu virus has an incubation period of one to four days, meaning that a person showing no symptoms can spread it inadvertently.
If you can't avoid being around someone who is sick, you should isolate them at home and limit contact as much as possible while they are still contagious. You may even need to make new sleeping arrangements so that others in the home aren't infected. You should also avoid sharing certain items with the person who is sick including:
- Dishes and utensils
Be sure to properly cover coughs and sneezes. Another way that flu germs spread quickly is through water droplets in the air from coughs or sneezes. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is always a good idea, but doing it using your hands is not.
It's best to use your elbow since you're less likely to touch surfaces or other people with this area of your body. If you happen to have a tissue, you can use it to cover your mouth as well, but you should toss it immediately to keep it from coming in contact with others.
Take Care of Yourself
People underestimate how much leading a healthy lifestyle can help your body fight back against sickness. A healthy immune system is the key to surviving the flu season. Here are a few tips for you and your family:
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies
- Get plenty of rest
- Keep stress levels down
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get regular exercise
Taking immune-boosting supplements like vitamin D and vitamin C can also help you to stay healthy. People who put in the effort to take care of themselves tend to recover more quickly after getting sick.
Keep Your Hands Away from Your Eyes, Nose, and Mouth
Germs can live on surfaces for several hours. So, as you can imagine, it's easy to pick up germs and viruses and spread them without knowing it. You could touch an infected door handle, rub your eyes, and end up getting sick. It's a difficult habit to break but be conscious about keeping your hands away from your face. This is also a good lesson to teach children early on.
Sanitize Your Linens
Your washer and dryer are some of the most powerful tools you have in the battle against germs, viruses, and bacteria. Make sure that you are regularly sanitizing your bed sheets, towels, and rugs in hot water to reduce your infection risk.
Good hygiene and frequent house cleaning are the best ways to keep the flu virus from spreading in your home. If someone in your family does get sick, make sure you keep them isolated for the first week of infection and disinfect your home thoroughly to keep germs and viruses at bay. You should also avoid being around others who may be sick as much as possible. These are some of the best steps you can take to flu-proof your living space and stay healthy.