Cleaning your home after recovering from an illness isn’t as simple or straightforward as it seems. As soon as you’re strong enough, it’s time to tackle the clean-up stage, which is particularly important when there are other people living in the house, and banish those pesky germs.
Said Dr. Stacey Rose, assistant professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, says that it does make sense to steer clear of household members as much as you can when you’re sick but strict quarantine is not necessary.
Under ideal conditions, it would help considerably if you do your best to practice excellent hygiene before, during, and after your illness. This includes several steps including frequent and thorough hand-washing, covering your mouth when you cough and using a tissue when you sneeze. These may seem like simple and inconsequential actions, but they are actually far more effective at preventing the spread of germs than you may think.
“Different illnesses can be spread slightly differently,” according to Dr. Rose. “Some viruses are passed through the air or via respiratory droplets – meaning if I cough and you inhale the air near me, you can become infected. Other illnesses are passed through shared secretions – such as if I drink from a glass and then you drink from the same glass.”
Here are a few preventive measures that you can adopt to ensure that those cold or flu viruses will find it extremely difficult to spread in your house again.
First and foremost, wash your hands often and thoroughly
According to Dr. Rose, “Hand-washing is the single most important measure for preventing the spread of infection.” In fact, research shows that this activity can pare down the risk of respiratory infections by 16–21%. Also, there are certain moments when hand-washing is particularly essential: when preparing food; when you are taking care of a sick individual; after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose; after using the toilet (particularly public restrooms); etc.
And yet, despite the fact that hand-washing isn’t particularly difficult, most of us do it rather haphazardly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand-washing will only be effective if we do the following:
- Use clean, running water when you are washing your hands. Cold or lukewarm water will do. (Temperature is not an important factor in this case.)
- Apply soap and create a lather; don’t forget to pay attention to such areas as the back of your hands, areas between your fingers, and even under your nails. This activity should take no less than 20 seconds.
- Rinse thoroughly under clean water. Use a clean towel to dry your hands; if there’s no towel insight, you can still air-dry your hands.
Keep those hard surfaces clean
After you have recovered from a bout of cold or flu, you still need to need to take a few steps to ensure that no one else in the house gets sick or to prevent the chances of recurrence. Note that flu viruses can still survive on hard surfaces, such as stainless steel or light switches, for as long as 48 hours. Indeed, other types of viruses such as Norovirus are even tougher to get rid of and can even last up to 2 weeks!
To clean hard surfaces — e.g., door handles, countertops, kitchen tales — you can use diluted bleach or a store-bought disinfectant, according to Mary Marlowe Leverette, The Spruce’s cleaning expert. First, spray the surface and leave as is for 3 minutes. Next, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away the solution (and presumably all the germs that were on the surface). Also, don’t forget to place all the kitchen utensils handled by the sick person on the dishwasher (use high heat settings) before allowing these things to be used again.
Clean the bathroom
One of the critical areas that should be sanitized (especially if the sick person has been hit by a stomach bug) is the bathroom. During the course of the disease, ask the sick person to use paper towels or at least make sure that the hand towels are changed daily. Also, ensure that no one else touches the things used by the sick person.
As soon you (or the sick person has) have received a clean bill of health, wash all the towels, hand towels, and bath rugs in hot water right away, and then make sure they’re dried under high heat. During and after the illness, make sure that highly susceptible areas in the bathroom (e.g., toilet lid, seat, and handle; shower and sink handles; the floor around the water closet; doorknobs; light switches) are cleaned regularly.
Another common cause of reinfection that’s often overlooked is the toothbrush (something that’s supposed to keep you healthy and clean). To be on the safe side, make sure you toss out the toothbrush you have been using as soon as the symptoms have resolved; and don’t forget to also disinfect the holder scrupulously.
Clean the bedroom, too
Right after you have recovered from an illness, make sure to wash all the bed linens, pajamas, or stuffed items that you have (or any sick individual has) been in close contact with, Leverette added. This rule also applies to items that are frequently used inside the house: TV remote, books, things on the bedside table, etc.