The cold, a flu, bronchitis or viruses have affected a number of Middle Georgians. I realize it is difficult to think about flu season when the outside temperature remains around 70 degrees, however, we are still in flu season.
To avoid illness, proper precautions must be taken.
First, we must wash our hands. Most of us do wash our hands, just not properly. Hands should be washed for 20 seconds with warm soap and water to effectively get them clean. Also, contrary to what my children believe, hand sanitizer is not a replacement for hand-washing. Sanitizer can be used in the event soap and water are not available but, soap and water is always best.
There are different levels of “clean.” You are probably wondering, what’s the difference? Cleaning is the process of removing physical dirt. It does not remove germs, mold or other harmful bacteria that make us ill. Cleaning is generally done with soap and water. It is also the lowest level of “clean.”
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When someone has been ill in your home, you may want a higher level of clean. Sanitizing, for instance, is the process of decreasing germs to levels where illness will not occur. This process often involves the use of a sanitizing solution. Most of us use a bleach and water solution to achieve this level of clean.
The important thing to remember with bleach is that less is best. To make a sanitizing solution, the United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water. If you want to go green, you can use vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to sanitize. The EPA suggests using 1/2 cup of either hydrogen peroxide or vinegar in a spray bottle.
In order to sanitize surfaces effectively, remember to clean the surface first, then apply the sanitizing solution. This may seem like a small step, but to get rid of bacteria and other pathogens, which could potentially make us ill, it is essential.
Disinfecting is the third and highest level of clean. My daughter had a 24-hour virus. To avoid spreading it to the entire family, her bedding was washed in hot water and disinfectant wipes were used on doorknobs, remote controls, light switches, toilet handles and any place else I could think of that could potentially harbor illness-causing bacteria.
Disinfecting properly — weather you are using wipes, bleach and water solution, or spray — is critical. The EPA says, “To achieve the desired level of disinfection, the chemical in question must be applied at a certain concentration for a specified amount of time.”
Disinfecting is a two-step process. Step one: clean the surface. Step two: allow the disinfectant “dwell time” (the amount of time that a surface must be in contact with the disinfectant solution in order to kill harmful bacteria). In other words, spray or wipe the disinfectant solution onto a clean surface and allow it to sit. If you are using a chemical disinfectant, the instructions for time should be on the package.
Don’t forget the doorknobs, handles, light fixtures, tablet cases, keyboards and cell phones. They are notorious for harboring “icky” bacteria.
I hope these tips help you and your family to beat the bugs this flu season.