The reason why we often keep getting colds during the winter is not because of the weather, but because we're all cooped with each other (and each other's germs) indoors.
Ugh. What can a parent do to keep cold and flu viruses out of our homes?
Although we can't eliminate cold and flu viruses entirely, these simple house cleaning tasks and preventative measures can help keep these menacing germs at bay.
The best offense again fall's stomach bug and chest colds is a good defense: By teaching children a few simple tricks, parents can often stop such contagious illnesses in their tracks.
That, combined with some extra-stringent disinfecting of common home surfaces frequented by the sniffle- and sneeze-spreading set, can make this fall a healthier one for you and yours.
The number one habit that parents should teach their children s still the tried-and-true washing of hands. Catching air-borne germs is a relatively minimal risk - direct physical contact is still the easiest and quickest way to catch a germ.
Because we constantly touch our eyes, face and others with our hands, children should wash their hands after they use the restroom, before they eat and after they blow their nose.
This is especially important to reinforce during the fall cold and flu season when children are inside classrooms, sharing chest colds and stomach bugs along with pencils and snacks.
Proper hand washing is probably the most important thing parents and children can do in the home to prevent colds. Many of us wipe our mouths and noses with our hands without washing hands afterward.
Washing your hands with soap, including the backs of the hands, in between fingers, or 20 to 30 second - about the length of the Alphabet song - is key.
Also, keeping nails short and clean helps to keep hands clean.
Explain to kids the importance of washing away a morning's worth of shared germs before eating lunch. Consider giving your child some antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer to take along to school, because often there is not enough time in between the end of class and lunch time for students to head to the rest room.
Miss Manners will be proud of moms and dads who teach junior not only to shake hands when meeting someone but how to properly cover their mouth when they sneeze.
Teaching children the wrong way to cover their mouth can often spread more germs than not covering it at all.
Since it's customary to shake hands using the right hand, it should become a custom to cover one's mouth with the left hand.
This method will help prevent the passing of germs from person to person via the hands during a greeting. Reducing the number of germs passed among children also reduces the spread of colds and flu.
And if your child is sneezing or coughing, make sure he knows how to properly keep infectious fluids to himself. A child with a cold should have plenty of tissues handy, and know how to properly use and dispose of them.
Disposable tissues should be used to cover cough droplets and wipe noses in a way that secretions are contained by the tissues and do not get on the hands.
And if they do, look out: These nasty, invisible interlopers thrive even in homes that look clean.
Once contaminated little fingers touch the kitchen counter, telephone and refrigerator handle - virtually any hard surface in your home - the viruses and bacteria left there will lie in wait for an unsuspecting family member to happen by.
The key to keeping infectious bacteria to a minimum in your home? Disinfectant cleaners.
Parents can combat those cold and flu germs by diligently disinfecting common surfaces, especially when someone in the home is sick. Although you can't eliminate interlopers entirely, there are some simple housekeeping tasks that will help keep these menacing germs at bay.
By focusing your cleaning efforts on major germ hot spots, arming yourself with a disinfectant and then shooting to kill, you can win the battle - if not the war - against germs.
What to put on your home disinfecting target list? Light switches, telephones, computer/laptop keyboards, remote controls and doorknobs.
These are favorite spots for any of the more than 200 sneeze- and cough-creating common cold viruses today. These bugs can survive for hours on hard surfaces in the home, especially plastics and metals, as well as on children's toys.
A cleaner labeled "disinfectant" will kill most tough germs on hard surfaces. Ammonia, lemon juice and vinegar, contrary to popular opinion, don't kill bacteria or viruses.
Save time by choosing a bleach-based cleaner or diluted chlorine bleach to both clean and disinfect at the same time. (Mix your own using 3/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water.) Spray directly on a non-food surface, and let the solution work its magic for 10 minutes. Wipe dry with a paper towel and toss.
Better yet: Consider stocking one of those pop-up disposable disinfecting wipes, such as those made by Clorox, beneath the sink, in the family room, in the kids' bathroom. As a preventive measure, plan to disinfect surfaces weekly - daily if someone in your home has the sniffles or a dry, scratchy sore throat.
Don't forget the laundry - it too can be a key culprit in the spread of infectious germs and bacteria. If sneezy Susie handed your child her backpack or grabbed your daughter's sweatshirt arm at recess, bacteria and germs are probably still playing on these items.
Plan to wash your child's backpack (unzipping zippers, taking out papers and wrappers first) and school sweatshirts or jackets at least weekly in the hottest water that's safe for the fabric. Ditto for her school clothes or uniform.
If the item can handle bleach, pour it into the washing machine along with the dirty duds.
Remember, only sufficiently hot water and bleach kill germs and bacteria, so become a voracious label-reader. And for your kids' dirty duds, choose "hot" for the wash water temperature whenever you can. Many hardy germs can survive a warm-water swim.
Finally, don't forget to zap the bugs that hopped off the load you sorted and on to the washer and dryer's surface.
Here's to a clean home, healthy kids and a germ-free school year!