In the United States, we have what’s called a “flu season” which runs from October to May, and peaks with the most cases happening between late December and early March. So while we’re supposed to have reached the peak at this point, there are still some devastating cases of the flu going around. This has been a particularly rough flu season and we all have some concerns.
Because the flu is a virus spread by droplets of actively contagious people, you cannot expect the same results or cleaning regimen as something that’s bacterial like a strep infection in order to prevent others from getting the flu. However, there are several things you should know about the flu, a few things to keep in mind when the flu hits your home, and some peace of mind to be had by the clean up after.
What Is The Flu?
Influenza or “the flu” is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract, meaning it’s a virus that attacks the lungs, nose, and throat. Especially susceptible are babies, young children, seniors over 65, pregnant women, chronic disease sufferers, children with asthma, residents of long-term care facilities, or people with weak immune systems.
Some strains of the flu, especially this year’s, have attacked and caused deaths amongst healthy populations of young and middle-aged persons that wouldn’t normally be considered high-risk or who have usually good enough immune systems to fight infections. The flu can quickly lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications. Initial flu symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue.
How Do You Get The Flu?
People who are infected are contagious from a day before they feel sick until at least 5-7 days after symptoms appear, though it could be longer, and the flu is spread through several means. The number one cause is when the virus is released by an infected person into droplets that move through the air to infect another who breathes them in through their mouth and nose. Airborne respiratory droplets are released by coughs or sneezes.
Though less often, these droplets also land on surfaces and are picked up by hand contact and then transferred afterward by touching your own mouth, eyes, or nose. You’re in danger of receiving the infection through skin-to-skin contacts such as handshakes and hugs and by touching things infected people have touched like doorknobs and blankets. You can also be infected through saliva from kissing and sharing drinks or utensils.
How To Clean Your Home After The Flu
- Flu germs tend to live longest on plastic and other hard surfaces which include many things like doorknobs, counters, remotes, and keyboards. The flu virus can live on some surfaces for up to 24 hours which doesn’t seem like a long time, but it can be for the health and well-being of your family. Routinely cleaning during the flu season, and especially when someone in your home is sick, will help prevent the virus transfer.
- Try to be conscious about extra hand-washing and not rubbing your eyes or putting your hands on/in your nose and mouth. And wash your hands after handling laundry.
- According to the CDC, “flu viruses are killed by heat above 167° F [75° C]”. They also say common household cleaning products can kill the flu virus, including products containing:
- hydrogen peroxide
- detergents (soap)
- iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics)
- Sheets, pillowcases, blankets big and small, and duvet covers hold lots of the ickies. It’s best to wash them every day if someone is sick and using them, but sometimes all you can do is wait for it to pass and wash them after on high-temp. Wash pajamas, robes, and towels as well. For an extra germ combat weapon, put some white vinegar in your wash with your laundry soap.
- Wipe the thermometer clean after each use with a disinfectant wipe or alcohol swab. Hydrogen peroxide works well too. Keep toothbrushes segregated to avoid cross-contamination, wipe the handle just like the thermometer, and dip them in peroxide.
- Use a disinfectant spray liberally during and after the illness on everything that’s been touched and even across your upholstered furniture that was used by an ill person. Surfaces are not just counters and toilet handles. Think about what’s been used including doorknobs, computer keyboards, wallets, light switches, and fridge and cupboard doors, as well as sinks, shower handles, and many more.
- If you have used a re-usable cloth or sponge to clean, soak them in bleach, peroxide, or at the very least a white vinegar and water mix. Stick them in the dishwasher or the laundry – whatever you need to do to get those transferred germs off. If you can, use disposable items like antibacterial wipes or paper towels instead.
More About Flu Prevention
Get plenty of rest, reduce stress, and eat a healthy diet. Your immune system needs these to fight infection and to recover more quickly.
The flu shot for every person 6-months and older is a good start. Flu vaccines protect against 3 or 4 different flu viruses, so because it does not always prevent the particular strain of flu that comes our way, it’s just one part of the arsenal. The flu shot is updated and given every year and contains killed flu viruses that are what experts are predicting will be most common strains in the upcoming flu season. The killed viruses prepare the body to fight off infection should they come into contact with the live flu virus they were vaccinated against. It can take two weeks after the vaccine for the body to build up immunity to the virus, so it’s best to get the shot early, however you may get it at any time.
Other Important Flu Prevention Tips
— Be courteous to others and stay home from work or school when you may be or are confirmed sick with the flu.
— Wash your hands well and often with soap or disinfect with an antibacterial product when you can’t get to the sink.
— Don’t share cups and eating utensils; do not risk sharing saliva in any way with a sick person.
— Wearing a mask while sick might help prevent the spread, as well as coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a washable cloth or disposable tissue to prevent an invisible spray of droplets that can affect quite a few feet of space, unknown to anyone.
— Toss your used tissues and never pick up used tissues from anyone without protection.
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