10 Home Cleaning Tips to Ward Off the H1N1 Influenza Virus
The worldwide flu news headlines on the outbreak of the new virus – formerly known as swine influenza – are enough to scare a small child.
Throw in the World Health Organization’s elevating the worldwide pandemic alert level to 5 last week – just one step below full pandemic – and it’s enough to understandably send frightened grown-ups into defensive action mode.
But what exactly is it that we at home can do to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu virus?
There’s No Place Like Home
President Felipe Calderon of Mexico put it best in his first televised address this week since the outbreak started: “There is no safer place than your own home to avoid being infected with the flu virus,” Calderon said.
And once we’re there, the better we know how to keep a virus from taking root or spreading in our home, the safer our home and the family members inside will be.
This is especially important for parents, because as we know, the flu hits younger children harder because they haven’t built up many immunities. Worse, the flu vaccine is in short supply in many places and babies can’t take it, anyway.
It helps to remember the reason why we usually get colds and flu this time of year. Not because of the weather – but because we’re all cooped up with each other (and each other’s germs) indoors.
Rhinoviruses can survive up to three hours on skin and inanimate objects. That means when little Johnny hacks away without covering his mouth at preschool, your little Annie has ample opportunity to come in contact with his germs. And to bring them home alive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, spread of the swine influenza A H1N1 virus is thought to occur the same way: mainly from person to person through the coughing or sneezing of people with influenza.
Additionally, sometimes people may become infected by touching something with viruses on it and then touching his nose or mouth.
So What’s a Mom to Do?
While we can’t do much about the worldwide spread of influenza, there are 10 simple but effective things we can do inside our home:
1 Wash Your Hands. And make your kids wash their hands. A lot. (Tell them they can finally play in water.) Avoid the anti-bacterial soaps that may actually cause more viruses in the long run by making germs resistant. Unless kids’ hands are visibly dirty, encourage them to use the alcohol-based cleansers that clean without water. These cleansers kill germs by dehydration. You can buy small bottles and pack them in your kids’ backpacks for use at school. If they need soap and water, they must scrub vigorously for at least 30 seconds to kill germs. (Tell Annie to wash while she sings the Alphabet Song. That should do it.) The more you wash, the safer you are.
2 Teach kids to sneeze or cough into a tissue and then throw the tissue away. And then wash their hands again!
3 Get a Flu Shot. If flu shots are available, make sure everyone in your family who is old enough gets one.
4 Don’t Share. Tell you kids not to drink after other kids or share food. And warn your daughters not to share lip-gloss.
5 Disinfect Your Home.What’s the most germ-laden room of your house? Nope, it’s not the bathroom. It’s the kitchen — especially the sink area. And the worst germ-breeding object in your house? The kitchen sponge or dishrag. The moistness in sponges creates an ideal growing environment for these nasty little creatures. Disinfect sponges periodically by wetting them and popping them into the microwave for two minutes; replace them at least once a week. Change dishrags daily.
6 Clean surfaces that may harbor germs with a good virus-killing disinfectant, such as Clorox or Lysol. Regularly clean doorknobs, faucets, countertops, keyboards, telephone receivers and any other frequently touched surface.
7 Take Care of yourself. Cold germs are around all the time. So why aren’t we sick all the time? Usually, healthy, well-nourished, well-rested people can fend off many germs. And if you do get sick, good health usually helps you recover faster. So make sure your family gets at least eight hours of sleep, eats healthy meals (lots of fruit and vegetables) and exercises daily. All the good stuff you should be doing, anyway!
8 Keep the Flu at Home. If you or your child is running a temperature, stay home! Do not go out and infect others. And if you have younger kids, think twice before sending them to indoor amusement parks where toddlers may have been drooling over plastic balls, etc. And avoid people who have been sick. Adults are contagious up to seven days after experiencing symptoms. And kids are contagious longer than that. Parents may want to consider talking to his or her employer about working from home.
9 If you do get the flu, start antiviral prescription medications such as oseltamivir or zanamivir right away. If you take these drugs within the first 48 hours of symptoms, they can lessen the severity. Otherwise, all you can do is drink a lot of liquids and try to sleep through it. If your symptoms are severe – and particularly if you have difficulty breathing – see a doctor.
10 Finally, call a family meeting to discuss your family’s plans for a pandemic. Who will care for the kids if mom and dad are both sick? Be sure to stock up on cleaning supplies, such as soap and alcohol-based hand wash, fever reducers, lots of water or other hydrating fluids, and plenty of tissues.