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Wipe out Those Flu Germs

Ways to get ’em before they spread

Although a clean bathroom is a boon to good health anytime of the year, during cold and flu season it’s particularly important to be vigilant about germs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the period when an infected person is contagious depends on the age and health of the person. Studies show that most healthy adults may be able to infect others from one day prior to becoming sick and for five to seven days after they first develop symptoms. Some young children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for longer than a week. And, once someone is exposed to the virus, the length of time it takes for symptoms to appear varies from one to four days, with an average of about two days.

Although cold and flu viruses primarily spread from person-to-person contact, you can also become infected from contact with contaminated surfaces. The best way to avoid becoming infected with a cold or flu is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer.

If another member of your household is sick, extra vigilance is required, warns Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute. The length of time that cold or flu germs can survive outside the body on an environmental surface, such as a doorknob, varies greatly. But the suspected range is from a few seconds to 48 hours – depending on the specific virus and the type of surface.

  • If there is more than one bathroom in the home, assign one exclusively to the sick person.
  • Be sure all bathroom sinks, as well as the one in the kitchen, are well stocked with soap and paper towels.
  • Add disinfectant wipes to your next-to-the-sink assortments. Encourage family members to use them to wipe down faucet handles and doorknobs.
  • Put alcohol-based sanitizers and disinfectant wipes in the bedroom, the den, the family room –anywhere the sick person is spending time.
  • Since dry skin is often a by-product of dry weather and heated homes, a hand sanitizer with moisturizer can kill germs as well as help keep hands soft.