Working in a doctor’s office during flu season isn’t fun at all with people sneezing their cooties all over you.
Most days I feel like I’m weaving and bobbing my way through the flu virus that wants to get sucked up my nose and start reproducing. Sorry, flu, but I don’t plan on being your cheap seedy motel. Don’t you see the no vacancy sign?
Just today, 2 people in my department were diagnosed with the flu. I was running around my office like a crazy woman with latex gloves and antimicrobial wipes.
I wouldn’t be so nuts about it if they both didn’t come to my office hacking up a lung and touching my doorknob. To matters worse, one of the doctors moved my bottle of water so he could put his laptop on my desk, breathing his germs all over me.
Don’t you just hate when sick people are even more inconsiderate then people who aren’t sick?
After I tossed out that bottle of water, I grabbed another one and dropped a double-dose of Airborne in it.
So, not only is it important to disinfect your house after the flu, it’s equally as important as disinfecting your workspace during the flu season. Next to food poisoning, flu stands second to the most life-sucking, dehydrating, dig a hole and throw me in it, illness.
Let’s start with the basics
Flu disclaimer: I’m not a physician, although I work with a bunch of them. If you think you or someone in your family has the flu, please get checked out immediately. People have actually died from the flu. Even this year the CDC shows 41 children died from the flu. Don’t get me wrong, just because someone has the flu it’s not a death sentence.
How to prevent getting the flu from a family member
Tip #1 – If someone in your house already has the flu, the best way to avoid getting the flu is to wash your hands, using warm soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds. It’s also helpful to keep some alcohol hand rub all over the house.
Tip #2 – Keep your hands away from your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you need to wear a surgical mask as a reminder to do so, you can get them relatively cheap at any of your local drugstores. Heck, while your family member is getting diagnosed at the doctor’s office, ask them to give you one or two.
If you all of a sudden have an itchy eye or nose (you know that’s gonna happen), if you’re near a sink, wash your hands and if not, use some alcohol hand rub.
Tip #3 – My secret weapon. You’ll want to slam-dunk your immune system. By drinking or chewing an immune support supplement is one of the best ways to kick your immune system into auto-drive. I don’t know what the heck is in it, but it’s flipping awesome.
Quarantine whoever is sick
If it’s your child and they share a room with another child, do not let them sleep in the same room. If your spouse is sick and you’re not; sleep in another room. This will also limit the rooms you’ll have to disinfect the house afterward.
The flu spreads quicker than a cheetah on speed.
When the infected person coughs, sneezes or even talks they’re spreading the virus through what we in the medical profession like to call “airborne droplets”. In layman’s terms, it’s the fine mist that shoots out of your mouth and nose when you sneeze.
Airborne droplets can travel up to 6 feet, and that’s one of the reasons it’s recommended you quarantine that person.
Make sure you place a trash can and tissues near their bed. Line the trash can with one of those plastic bags your groceries are typically put in, as it makes it easier to remove that type of bag versus a typical trash bag with no handles.
Remove the toothbrush of the sick person from the rest of the toothbrushes. They’re not going to be using it for the next week or so, so it’s best to put it aside to disinfect it. Also, remove any towels that the person used in the bathroom.
Not so fun facts about the flu
Flu virus survival rate
The flu virus can survive on hard surfaces and they can survive for 24 to 48 hours, which means every-time the sick person sneezes in bed, that’s another 24 to 48 hours of life for the virus.
What items can the flu virus live on?
Not only can the flu live on bedding but it can live on an end table, a lamp, the carpet, stuffed toys, remote control, cell phone, computer, etc…
In fact, the virus can live longer on nonporous inanimate surfaces like a toy car or baby dolls. The only thing they can’t live on is a disinfecting wipe, so stock up on them, cause we’re ready to sucker punch those little turds and squash them into oblivion!
Transmission of the flu virus
Not only can you get the flu by inhaling airborne droplets, but you can also get it from touching items that the virus is living on. You stand a greater chance of getting sick if someone in your home or if you’re around someone who has the flu.
Disinfecting after the flu
Always read the labels of the disinfecting wipes to ensure they will work against the flu virus. Most will say, “cold and flu” and that should suffice. If you get one, please make sure it has one of these disinfecting agents in the ingredient list:
- sodium hypochlorite
- benzalkonium chloride
- calcium hypochlorite
- sodium dichloroisocyanurate
Types of disinfectants
Now is not the time to pull out your “green” cleaners. If you’re going to do that, you may as well give whoever’s sick a big old french kiss on their mouth, because those types of cleaners are not going to kill the flu virus.
Store-bought disinfectant spray or wipes
Unless you work for a doctor’s office or scored some of the heavy-duty disinfectant wipes, your best bet is to use a store-bought disinfectant. It’s your choice which you prefer – spray or wipes – but in all honesty, it’s easier to handle the wipes than pulling out the spray and possibly contaminating the paper towels.
When you use either a disinfectant spray or disinfectant wipe, please be sure to follow the directions on the package. If you’re using a disinfectant spray, then immediately wipe it off all you’re doing is 1) wasting your precious time and 2) wiping all the disinfecting properties away.
A good rule of thumb is to always let the cleaner sit for 1-3 minutes. The longer, the better.
If you’re in a bind and you can’t get to the store and all you have is hydrogen peroxide, that will do; however, you’re going to have to put a lot of muscle behind your scrubbing.
Good thing you work out, ’cause you’re gonna need to use those muscles!
Wait, you don’t work out?
Then don’t use hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide won’t be as effective as disinfecting wipes, but if that’s all you got, then use it. Please let it sit for at least 10 minutes before wiping off.
Seriously, the amount of time it takes for it to do any good, you could have gone to the store, picked up some corn chips, read the tabloids, flirted with the butcher, pick up a few tubs of disinfecting wipes, fight the school traffic and still make it home before it’s time to wipe off the peroxide.
You’ll want to make sure the hydrogen peroxide is 3%. You can either spray it directly on whatever you’re trying to disinfect or dilute in water with a 50-to-50 mix. If you’re going to use the peroxide on its own, it may make your colors bleed, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re planning on using it on your new blue fabric couch.
There has been some speculation that using vinegar after hydrogen peroxide will aid in the effectiveness of the cleaning; however, you should NEVER MIX THE TWO TOGETHER. Combining them creates peracetic acid, which is potentially toxic and can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. All I have to do is hear the word TOXIC and I’m not going any further.
Bleach is an amazing disinfectant. If you chose this option – which I would highly recommend especially if you’re mopping your floors, use a solution of 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water. Allow the solution to be in contact with the surface for at least five minutes. Please refrain from using scented bleach if you’ll be using it on surfaces where you prepare food.
NEVER EVER MIX bleach and vinegar together. if you think the above combination is bad, this is worse. By combining the two, it releases a toxic gas that can give you a chemical burn in your eyes and lungs.
Here is a recipe from the CDC.
As recommended by the CDC, if you choose not to purchase disinfectant wipes, you can make this bleach solution.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of bleach to 4 cups of water.
- While wearing disposable gloves, apply the solution to the surface using a cloth. You can also mix the bleach solution in a bucket and transfer some to a spray bottle.
- Let the solution sit for 3 to 5 minutes.
Sometimes bleach leaves a tacky residue, and if this is the case, you can wipe it off with clean water and a clean paper towel after the surface has dried.
While I highly recommend steam cleaning your floors, if you don’t own a steam cleaner you don’t need to go out and buy one. They are pretty awesome; I have one and I adore it. I love it so much I have the steamiest floors in town.
If you do steam clean your floors, do so after you’ve mopped it with a floor disinfectant of your choice. When you’re done make sure you through the mop head in the washing machine on hot afterward.
What not to use when disinfecting
Don’t use sponges, microfiber rags or even those fancy ultra-expensive ones you get from home parties. All of those will just harbor and transfer the flu. Always use paper towels and discard them immediately after using them. When you’re disinfecting your house after the flu, this one little mishap can start the cycle all over again.
Sort of like the show Supernatural. Dean, Sam and everyone else you thought were dead is always coming back.
When you get rid of the paper towels don’t just toss them in the trash can. Keep one of those handy dandy plastic grocery bags around to throw the paper towels in. Not only will this keep someone from accidentally spilling the trash can all over the floor ultimately reintroducing the flu virus to your freshly cleaned floor, but it’s a great way to get rid of the millions of plastic bags you have.
If you’re ultra “environmentally-conscious” and plastic bags are considered a curse word in your vocabulary, a paper bag will do just fine. Just keep the bag away from your dog or cat.
The top 10 items you should disinfect your home after the flu
There’s really no need to go crazy and disinfect the entire house (unless you’re me, which you’re not, so you’re in luck); however, if that’ll make you feel better, then, by all means, do so. Below is a list of the top 10 items you should disinfect when someone in your home after the flu.
Your phone. Landlines (if you still have one or if you’re over the age of 68) and cell phones. Cell phones are a breeding ground for germs. Don’t believe me? You may want to read the article below.
Additional Reading: Why Texting On The Toilet Can Make You Sick
The remote control. It’s one of the most touched and least items cleaned in your home. Not only do kids touch it with sticky fingers that were picking boogers from their nose, but the dog lays all over it, it falls on the floor, and sometimes it’s grabbed after someone comes out of the bathroom without washing their hands.
Bathroom faucets. Since we’re talking about the bathroom, always make sure to disinfect the faucets. We tend to touch them when our hands are dirty and then again when our hands are clean. Just because you washed your hands, doesn’t mean it magically kills the germs sitting on the faucet.
Electronics. Don’t forget about the computer, tablet, and mouse. Touchable screens can become a hotbed of germs. If you use a mouse on your computer, make sure you disinfect not only the top of the mouse where your hands go but the bottom as well. Remember, germs can live on nonporous places and the mouse pad or table can act as a launching pad.
Tables. Kids snack tables, coffee tables, kitchen tables, end tables, etc.. are usually only wiped down after a meal, but think how many times either yourself or your children touch a table.
Bedding. Always wash your sheets, blankets, and towels in hot water with bleach. Use the amount of bleach that’s recommended on the bottle. I seem to use more than what’s recommended and all of my towels look like bright white clumps of swiss cheese. Yep, excessive bleach will cause the fibers in the sheets and towels to disintegrate within time.
Stuffed toys. If you’re able to wash it, then put it in the washing machine and if it’s too large, quarantine it for a few days, either in the garage, basement, attic or your neighbor’s house. Okay, the last part was a joke; or was it?
Toothbrushes. If you use the disposable kind just throw it out and buy a new one. If you use the battery operated type of toothbrush, you’ll want to disinfect the body and soak the brush heads in a cup of hydrogen peroxide for 30 to 40 minutes.
NOTE: Do not save the disposable toothbrushes to use to clean your home.
NOTE Part Two: Antiseptic mouthwash doesn’t kill the flu virus, so don’t think you can soak your toothbrush in a cup of mouthwash and be on your merry way.
Trash Cans. Even though you line the trash cans with plastic bags (unless you’re environmentally-conscious), there’s always something nasty clinging to the side or dripped through a microscopic hole in the bag. Spray it was disinfectant spray and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before putting another bag in.
Fixtures. Doorknobs, light switches, stairway railings, and toilet handles. Yes, I saved the best for last. These 3 areas are the most touched spots in your home and are the ones that are never thought of.
Stuff to throw out
I know you’re a logical type of gal but sometimes when we’re stressed, especially after dealing with the aftermath of the flu our common sense flies out the window. With that said, please make sure you throw out the following items after the flu has moved on your evil next-door neighbors house.
Any food or drinks that were uneaten. A good example of this would be a single bottle of orange juice. This may have been left in the “sick room” and perhaps it wasn’t open, because let’s face it, no one wants to drink acidic juice when your throats on fire.
You go into the room and see that unopened bottle sitting on the end table and you decide to pick it up and put it in the refrigerator. Sure, there stands a chance it’s not contaminated, but do you seriously want to take the risk? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
When in doubt, throw it out!
If you used sponges…please tell me you didn’t. They’re horrible and should only be used to wash a car…if you do wash a car. Okay, I’m heading in the wrong direction here. If you have a sponge and used a sponge anytime during the time someone in your household was sick with the flu. THROW IT OUT!
Well, there you have it. I hope I was able to answer all of your questions about disinfecting your house after the flu. I’m sure if you’re reading this it’s due to the fact someone has or had the flu. I hope everyone is feeling better and will be back to their old self very soon.
Until we meet again,
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P.P.S. Don’t leave without downloading your disinfection recipe cheatsheets!