Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Care and Feeding of Your Child – Cleaning House After Illness

Readers may have noticed a lull in blog entries over the last week.  I am just recovering from a doozy of a cold and pink eye (in both eyes!)  Being sick reminded me of when I was young.  When I got pink eye so did my friends, when they had a cold, so did I.  I have heard so many of my friends with children discuss the phenomenon of a cold or stomach flu making its way thru each member of the household.

I am the product of two germ-o-phobic parents and it seems I have also married one.  I decided to de-germ the house to rid it of my cold and conjunctivitis.  The question that came to my mind is how long do bacteria live on hard surfaces like coffee tables and door knobs and how long do they live of soft surfaces like couches?  The next question of course is how do we get rid of the bacteria?  I went to some of trusted resources to begin the research including the Center for Disease Control, the Center for Science and Public Interest and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here is some of what I read:

  • Some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes to up to 2 hours on tables, doorknobs and desks. (Ansari 1988, Scott and Bloomfield 1989)
  • The NHS Website from the UK said the flu virus can live on a hard surface up to 24 hours and a soft surface for 20 minutes
  • Mayo Clinic internist James M. Steckelberg, M.D, believes the time flu viruses can survive outside a host depends on factors such as  the strain and the surface. Times can range from seconds up to 48 hours
  • Steckelberg also theorized that germs generally live longer on hard surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones, toothbrushes) than porous ones like fabric or paper.
  • University of Michigan epidemiologist Allison Aiello says viruses live on skin for up to five minutes.

So after all that reading, I am very clear that it is unclear how long germs are brewing in our homes.  So the next logical question is: how do we get rid of them immediately!?

The answer from the Center for Disease Control and the American Pediatric Association was surprisingly simple.  I was expecting some complex concoction of bleach and hours of elbow grease to change my germ filled home into a clean, happy, germ-o-phobic welcoming enviroment.  The answers I found are listed below:

  • Clean!
  • Focus on surfaces that may have germs on them: doorknobs, counters, toilets, phone, remote, toys, bedside tables, bathroom sinks.  Clean these hard surfaces by using water and dish soap. Or use common household cleaners that kill germs
  • For soft surfaces like bed sheets, towels and pillow covers wash with normal laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot dryer setting.  Hold the laundry away from your face and wash your hands.

An additional suggestion I found was to set up a ‘sick room.’  Give the sick person their own room.  Fill the room with items needed such as tissues, a humidifier, thermometer, hand sanitizer and face masks.  Should the sick person leave the room, they should wear the face mask.  OK, so let’s be realistic, a sick toddler is not staying in one room AND a sick parent probably does not have the luxury of staying in one place either.  So while this is a great idea and may be followed for portions of the day the clean tips listed above may be more helpful!!

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