Taking off shoes and wiping down surfaces, door knobs and light switches are few easy ways to keep sickness at bay in your home.
By Grace Derocha
Protecting against cold and flu-inducing germs in public is important, but what about the ones hiding at home? The truth is, there are thousands of microscopic organisms co-existing in our beds, kitchens and bathrooms every day, though most are invisible to the naked eye. While many are harmless and even beneficial, it’s important to address those more dangerous to our health. Here are a few ways to maintain a healthier home.
It might be an afterthought, but wearing shoes in the house can track in anything and everything you stepped in throughout the day. Unfortunately, this often includes a lot of unwanted materials such as fecal matter, dirt, chemicals and more. A 2008 University of Arizona study discovered the average shoe carries nine types of bacteria known to cause infections in the stomach, eyes and lungs. To avoid those, a comfortable pair of house shoes or slippers is a great investment for those who need the extra foot support while walking around the house or just don’t care for cold feet. Be sure to use a heavy-duty mat to trap everything brought in at the door. In addition to preventing outdoor elements, removing shoes indoors also promotes good foot health by increasing breathability and flexibility for free range of motion.
There’s no substitution for thorough hand-washing when it comes to preventing illness and the spread of germs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular handwashing can prevent 30 percent of diarrhea-related sicknesses and 20 percent of respiratory infections. It’s important to lather soapy water between fingers, underneath fingernails, the backside of the hand and just above the wrist for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizers can be effective in a pinch but do not ensure the cleanliness of traditional hand-washing. Make it a habit to hit the sink upon entering the house.
A buildup of dust and dirt in hard-to-reach spots can easily trigger allergies and asthma. The American Lung Association estimates four out of every five American homes contains a detectable level of dust mite allergens in at least one bed. While a weekly dusting of items is great to keep dust mites at bay, be sure to also wipe areas not as easily accessible such as fans, wall moldings, windows and cabinets. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter at least twice weekly can further remove allergens from carpeting and ensure dirt and dust are captured. Regularly washing bedding and towels removes allergens as well. Make a chore calendar, and do a little bit each day to stay on track without feeling overwhelmed. As the weather gets warmer, open the windows a couple times per day for at least 10 to 15 minutes to ensure fresh air circulates throughout the house.
Items touched frequently each day, such as door knobs, light switches, appliance handles and electronic devices, are often hotspots for germs. In fact, mobile phones have been shown to carry more bacteria than public restrooms. Even more surprising, a 2011 study by NSF International (formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation) found the kitchen to be the germiest area in the house, despite the misconception that bathrooms harbor the most bacteria. Antibacterial wipes are a quick, easy way to disinfect these areas. This is especially important during the winter when colds are more prevalent.
Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.