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Protect Your Family from Illness during the Holidays December 3, 2009

For more information, contact Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

Protect Your Family from Illness during the Holidays

(Dec. 2, 2009) With the holidays upon us, more people will start entertaining inside their home. Germs in the home can show up where you least expect them, even if you try to keep your home clean.

According to Beth Barranco, a registered nurse with University Hospital, studies show that even with good efforts, about 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of cases of diarrhea and 50-80 percent of food-borne illnesses are caught in the home.

Believe it or not, a household kitchen is more heavily contaminated with bacteria than a household bathroom. “Contamination occurs on items that tend to remain moist, making a dishrag and a kitchen sink the most contaminated,” Ms. Barranco said.

So what are some other areas of a kitchen that harbor germs and how can we eliminate potential illness?

  • Sponges and rags: Wiping your counters or dishes with a dirty sponge just transfers bacteria from one area to another. Disinfect sponges by sterilizing them in the microwave or cleaning them in the dishwasher. Rags should be washed in the washing machine and dried on high heat. An alternative to using sponges or dishrags would be a disposable disinfectant wipe.
  • Cutting boards: Especially after cutting raw meat, you should wash your cutting board in warm soapy water then sanitize it in a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water and let it air dry. You should always use a non porous cutting board
  • Kitchen faucets, refrigerator handles and microwave touch screens: Most of the time these are overlooked areas of potentially harmful bacteria. They should be cleaned using a clean cloth soaked in a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water or a disposable disinfectant wipe.

What about other areas of the house?

  • In the bathroom: Light switches can have as many germs as a trash can and should be disinfected at least twice a week or every day if a member of the household is sick.
  • TV remotes and telephones: These items are often overlooked in cleaning. Potentially dangerous bacteria can be transferred from telephones to the hands which often end up around the mouth. Cell phones are usually more contaminated because they are stowed away in warm pockets. Be mindful of where you lay your cell phone down and clean it daily with a disinfectant wipe.

So what things should we be mindful of when going out to restaurants, grocery stores etc.?

  • Studies have shown salt and pepper shakers are almost always contaminated.
  • Since menus are rarely washed, you should never let it touch your plate or silverware and always wash your hands after you order.
  • When going to the grocery store, wipe the handle of your shopping cart down with a disinfectant wipe. A recent study from the University of Arizona showed that two thirds of shopping cart handles was contaminated with E-coli, saliva and mucus from children. It's a good practice to always bag fresh produce and do not place it in the seat where children have been sitting.

So what can we do routinely where ever we are to help prevent illness?

Your hands touch many contaminated things throughout the day. You should always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer especially before eating to help prevent illness. In doing that, hopefully more people will stay well and enjoy their holidays!

For more information on general wellness and health practices contact ASK-A-NURSE at 706/737-8423.

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