When harsh weather hits, it tends to correlate with some pretty severe illnesses along with your regular cold and flu viruses. Illnesses in general just seem to linger longer in the wintertime. There are a lot of ways you can take care of yourself as well as ways you can take care of your home. If you have small children or elderly people living with you, it’s especially important to take at least some of these steps to prevent the spread of disease:
Preventing Illnesses 101
- Make sure your cleaning supplies disinfect. This might seem obvious, but I’m honestly surprised that many people don’t do this. If you don’t see familiar phrases like “antibacterial” or “kills 99% of germs,” your cleaning supplies might not actually be disinfecting. I talk about a lot of DIY cleaning supplies, but during this time of year, it’s time to break out the bleach!
- Use and teach kids proper hand-washing methods. Doctors have found that the type of soap doesn’t really matter; it’s the amount of time you spend scrubbing under hot water (at least 20-25 seconds) that’s important.
- Stop sharing your drinks, utensils, and foods. You shouldn’t really do this anyway, but especially in the wintertime, don’t share.
- Scrub your bathroom and kitchen more frequently. These are the places that most often have and spread germs, so during the wintertime, you might want to up the ante.
- Keep germs out of your entryway. In the city, you’re likely constantly using public transportation. Don’t touch anything you don’t have to, obviously. But no matter what you do, you’ll likely have some germs on you when you get home. Where do you put your keys, your coat, your phone, and your shoes, and when do you wash your hands? What is your entrance routine like? When you clean, trace your steps. Clean the surfaces you touch first when you walk in the door.
- Continue to exercise, sleep on a regular schedule, and eat well. If you exercise, you’re giving your immune system a good boost.
- Launder winter clothing before you start using it. People sometimes forget to launder their scarves, which go directly near their faces! Regularly toss items like gloves, hats, mittens, scarves, and coats in the washer when you can.
- Stop bad face-touching habits. Biting one’s nails, rubbing one’s face, or rubbing one’s nose or eyes can all be considered to be bad habits that spread germs.
- Get fresh air every once in a while. When it’s not too cold, open your windows. Getting fresh air flowing can help to prevent breathing in the same germs over and over.
Clean these places that you touch often and don’t think about:
- Remote controls
- Your phone
- Your purse or briefcase (exterior and interior, especially the bottom where you set it down)
- Doorknobs and locks
- Handles and knobs of dressers, kitchen cabinets, etc.
- Your keyboard and mouse
- Children’s toys
- Light switches
- Faucets and spigots and their handles
- Your credit cards
- Inside the dishwasher
- Your bathroom floor
- Your sponges
- The containers of your cleaning supplies themselves (such as your soap dispenser)
When Someone You Live With Is Sick
- Launder the sick person’s sheets, especially their pillowcases.
- You can clean your pillows, too.
- When doing laundry, use a hamper (don’t hug the laundry to your chest), and then wipe down the hamper with a disinfectant once everything’s in the wash.
- Create a space for your loved one to be sick and try to avoid contact with them. Contain that person to one room of the house, like their bedroom.
- Give them plenty of tissues or a space to throw up. Then, be careful when throwing out the garbage, and do it frequently. Don’t leave dirty tissues all over the floor.
- When they’re better, clean the trashcan they were using.
- Clean the heck out of the bathroom or any other shared space that they have with you.
- Clean the bedside table or anything else they might have touched.
- Sick, sleepy people sometimes seem like they need to be cuddled, and it’s hard to resist the urge. Leave them alone and go sleep on the couch for a bit. Sleeping together will just make you sick. (I’ve done this and regretted it.)
- Throw out their toothbrush and give them a new, fresh one. Clean your toothbrush holder, too.
- If you use a loofah, use bleach to clean it, or just throw it out. If you use bar soap, make sure to rinse it off before using it.
- Control the air quality. Circulate fresh air, or at least make sure you have a clean air filter. Humidifiers often help people recover from a cold.