I was having fun mocking and looking down on all the hysteria around swine flu. Loads of fun – right up to the moment that my 15-month-old Riley woke up at midnight in a pool of sweat and we found she had a high fever. The flu. Which flu? That flu? The moment I picked her up I went from cool social critiquer/cynic to panicking mom. Her fever climbed. And then it fell, as fevers do. She felt miserable and then she felt better. Now she’s fine. Whew, what a ride. No swine flu here. Just regular old flu.
This emotional roller coaster got me thinking about the fact that the only information I am not hearing in the media I listen to is this: simple green steps to keep your home flu-free. So here goes.
Learn how to wash your hands
It seems like a simple task, but most people don’t wash their hands effectively at all. First, make sure you have a fresh bar of soap or full liquid soap containers and clean towels at every sink. Replace those towels often. Every time you wash your hands, lather up for 15-20 seconds and then rinse and dry. Wash thoroughly and often. Review this task with everyone in the family, especially the kids. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers are not better than soap and water and also need to be rubbed in for an extended period of time.
Wash where the hands go
Pour white distilled vinegar into a spray bottle. Squirt a clean rag and wipe countertops, doorknobs, drawer pulls, cabinet handles, stair rails, stick shifts, doorbells, toys, etc. Wipe them thoroughly and let them air dry. The vinegar smell will dissipate fairly quickly.
Cover your mouth
If you are coughing and sneezing, even your grandma will tell you to cover your mouth. It’s polite but it also helps keep your germs to yourself. But then what? Refer to step one – wash your hands!
Definitely don’t borrow someone else’s water bottle or phone. Don’t take a bite of someone else’s food using their utensil. Bring your own pen. Wash off gym equipment and sit instead of standing and holding the handles on the subway. Did I cover everything? You get the picture.
Nurture your immune system
Remember that just because you come in contact with flu virus does not mean you will get it. That’s what your immune system is for, so take care of it. Eat well. Take your vitamins. Get enough sleep and drink lots of water.
If you feel sick or are running a fever or just need a good excuse, now’s a great time to STAY HOME. It’s just not worth it at this point to tough it out. No one will thank you for it. So keep your kids out of childcare or school and keep yourself out of work so you don’t get anyone else sick. Do all those things you wish you had time for when you were at work!
Kimberly Delaney is the author of Clean Home, Green Home: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Eco-Friendly Homekeeping, published by the Knack imprint of Globe Pequot Press.