Minimizing the number of disease-causing germs that you are exposed to is easier than you might think. The key to success is knowing where the bugs reside – at home and elsewhere – and what to use to eliminate them.
For household germs:
- It turns out that the kitchen harbors more germs than any other room in the home — yes, more than the bathroom. The greatest concentration is found in the moist germ havens we call kitchen sponges and dishcloths. Wet your sponge or dishcloth and then pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes.
- Sink drains, faucet handles, and doorknobs — either in the kitchen or bathroom — are the next highest on the list of germ hideouts. Cleaning these surfaces can interrupt the spread of infections. Try using a household cleaning solution containing hypochlorite and be sure to rinse thoroughly.
For the air we breathe:
- Teach children (and adults) to cover the mouth and nose for every cough and sneeze. This simple maneuver has spectacular results in decreasing the aerosolized viruses and bacteria floating about the room for us to inhale.
- Invest in an air filter. High-efficiency particulate-arresting (HEPA) filters, available at discount drug stores for about $40 to $100, can remove 99.97%+ of the pollen, dust, animal dander, and even bacteria from the air. They are especially effective at preventing infections for those that get a bit stuffy from allergies but can also decrease respiratory infections for everyone.
- Houseplants are also excellent air purifiers (if no one is allergic), although they work much more slowly.
For clean hands:
- Wash your hands often! Hand washing reduces the spread of disease.
- The most important times for most of us to wash our hands are after sneezing or coughing, after toileting, upon leaving “high-risk” places (pediatrician’s waiting rooms, ball pits, daycare centers, fast-food chain play structures, high-traffic door knobs, etc.), and always upon arriving home (to keep outside germs outside). Of course, hand washing before meals and snacks is a must. (Before a child picks his or her nose would be nice but is not always practical.)
- Avoid using antibiotic soaps, except for medical scrubbing. Antibiotic soap may actually increase your chances of getting sick
- Try an instant hand sanitizer when you don’t have access to soap and water. A small bottle can be carried about in a purse, glove compartment, or even a hip pocket. A little dab will kill 99.99% of germs without any water or towels. It uses alcohols to destroy germs physically. It is an antiseptic, not an antibiotic, so resistance can’t develop.
Last reviewed: August 28, 2008