It’s known as the domino effect…when one family member comes down with a cold or flu, inevitably everyone gets it. But what if there was a way to help prevent it?
You may not be able to control how germs spread out in public – the sneezers, coughers and splutterers at the shopping centre, on the train to work, or at your child’s school – but there are definitely steps you can take to keep the bugs contained at home.
As winter approaches, following these six top tips (and teaching them to your kids) will help keep your home a flu-free sanctuary.
1. Get everybody a flu shot.
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. This year authorities are warning of particularly nasty strains of influenza and urging all Australians – not just the sick or elderly – to get vaccinated.
If you fall into certain categories you can get a flu shot for free, otherwise you can pay to get the yearly flu vaccine from larger pharmacies, doctors and health services. For more info on this year’s flu vaccine visit www.immunise.health.gov.au.
2. Make a 'Binning is winning' rule.
... or 'Not binning is sinning'! Make it a firm rule that used tissues go immediately in the bin. Not on the floor. Not in your sleeve. Not on the arm of the couch. To make it a bit more fun (and easy) for kids buy some little novelty bins or baskets - officeworks is great for these - and place them in every room of the house, including bedrooms and study. Freshen up and kill germs in tissue bins with a quick spray of eucalyptus spray (see tip 6).
3. Sing Happy Birthday while you wash your hands.
Although most people think that germs are spread through the air, the fact is germs are most easily spread by hand contact. Washing your hands regularly is very important and can help you avoid getting sick.
However, flicking your fingers under a running tap is not enough. Hands need a decent amount of time being washed thoroughly with soap and running water – about 15-20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head.
Adults and children should wash their hands:
When hands are visibly dirty
Before you eat
Before you prepare food items
After touching raw meats like chicken or beef
After contact with any body fluids like blood, urine or vomit
After changing infant or adult nappies
After touching animals or pets
After blowing your nose or sneezing
After going to the toilet
4. Practice the Vampire Sneeze.
We’ve all been told to ‘cover your mouth’ when we cough or sneeze, but if you’re using your hand it’s probably doing more harm than good. To prevent covering our hands (and the next surface they touch) with germs, try the Vampire sneeze instead. You simply sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow – as if lifting your Count Dracula cloak. Kids will love this imagery, which makes it easier to remember.
5. Create sippy cup central
Sharing is not caring when it comes to swapping germs. Teach kids to keep utensils, sippy cups, drinks with straws, drink bottles and food to themselves. Get one special drink bottle for each child and name it. If you have toddlers in the house it’s a good idea to keep a lock on the fridge, and have a high(ish) benchtop in a central spot where older children put their drinks – keeping them away from curious little fingers and mouths. The same goes with the family’s toothbrushes – one for each member and no sharing, no exceptions.
6. Get germs before they get you.
Cold viruses can survive up to 48 hours on some surfaces, and other nasty bacteria even longer. So that random sneeze near a kettle or over the computer keyboard could definitely infect the next person to make a cuppa or browse the internet. According to research, germs remain active for longer on stainless steel, plastic and other hard materials than soft ones such as carpet and upholstery, so regularly cleaning these surfaces is especially important.
Adding a splash of a germ-killing natural essential oil, such as tea tree or eucalyptus oil to your mop bucket will help keep floors fresh and hygienic. Or try a water-soluble essential oil formula like Bosisto’s Solutions, which can be used neat on a cleaning cloth, or decanted into a spray bottle as a natural multi-purpose cleaner.
For an allergy-friendly alternative to chemical surface sprays, try Bosisto’s Eucalyptus Spray. It kills 99.99 percent of household germs including E.Coli and salmonella. Spray doorknobs, telephone handsets, remotes, children’s toys or anywhere germy fingers touch. Plus, the whole family will enjoy the crisp, head-clearing scent of eucalyptus throughout the house!
References available on request.