With our homes shuttered against fall's cooler outdoor air, they can become virtual incubators of germs and viruses. After all, where else can they go? They don't have an exit route.
And all the warm bodies - us! - inside provide a perfect growing ground on which the flu virus can gain a toehold.
You can get the flu virus when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. (Ick.) These flu prevention cleaning tips can help you keep your family healthy.
Wash your hands frequently throughout the day; hand-washing is the single most effective means of flu prevention we have at our disposal. Make washing hands a regular part of your children's day. (Tell them they can finally play in the water.)
Remind kids that for hand hygiene to be effective, they must rub hands together with soap vigorously for at least 30 seconds to kill germs - about as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
If it's been a while since you reviewed the details, this Handwashing Tutorial can help. Carry a hand sanitizer for those times when you don't have access to water.
When you have flu symptoms - such as a cough - cover it with a tissue. When you're without one, an elbow will do. Then throw the tissue away. (Keep the elbow.)
And if your child is sneezing or coughing, make sure he knows how to keep infectious fluids to himself properly.
Disposable tissues should be used to cover cough droplets, and children should wipe their mouth or nose with tissues in a way that secretions are contained by the tissues and do not get on their hands. This is one of the most effective ways to prevent the flu.
Getting a flu shot is especially important for if you have a baby at home, or someone with a weak immune system. Flu shots are easily obtained at pharmacies and grocery stores. Save yourself the headache (and worse) and be proactive now. It's not too late to get a flu shot.
Don't forget to take extra care with the laundry in flu season - 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 sweatshirted arm at recess, bacteria and germs are probably still playing on these items.
For flu prevention, plan to wash your child's backpack (unzipping zipper, 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 school clothes or uniforms.
If the item can handle bleach, pour bleach into the washing machine along with the dirty clothes. Remember, only sufficiently hot water and bleach can kill flu germs and bacteria.
And for your kids' dirty duds, choose the "hot water" temperature whenever you can. Many hardy germs can survive a warm-water swim.
Simple housekeeping tasks will help keep these menacing germs at bay.
By focusing your cleaning efforts on the major germ hot spots, arming yourself with a disinfectant cleaner, and then shooting to kill, you can win the battle against flu germs.
What to put on your home disinfecting target list? Light switches, telephones, computer/laptop keyboards, remote controls, and the doorknobs throughout your home.
These are the favorite spots for any of the more than 200 sneeze- and cough-causing cold and flu viruses today. These hardy 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" (see cleaning products defined) will kill most tough germs on hard surfaces. Ammonia and vinegar, contrary to popular opinion, don't kill bacteria or viruses.
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, and in the kids' bathroom.
As a preventative measure, plan to disinfect surfaces weekly - daily if someone in your home has the sniffles or a dry, scratchy sore throat.
Cold germs and viruses are around all the time. So why aren’t we sick all the time? Healthy, well-nourished, well-rested people with a healthy immune system can fend off most germs and viruses.
And if you do get sick, good health usually helps you recover faster. Make sure your family gets at least eight hours of sleep a night, eats healthy meals (lots of fruit and vegetables), and exercises daily.
If you or your child is running a temperature - another of the virus symptoms - stay home. Do not go out and infect others. That's how an epidemic starts.
If you get sick, start an antiviral prescription medication right away. Taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms, they can lessen the severity of your symptoms. They can also prevent virus-related complications such as pneumonia.
If you're not better after several days, call your doctor. It's time to replace doctor Mom with a doctor of the licensed sort.