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Cleaning your home to stop colds and flu spreading

By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Catching a cold is miserable, contracting flu is even worse. It's often hard to avoid, but a lot can be done to stop these infections from spreading like wildfire around the family.

Keeping the person tucked away in their bedroom and sterilising the entire household from top to bottom may be tempting, but not realistic. You can try to stop those germs from taking hold by strategic cleaning and good general hygiene.

"You don't need bucket loads of bleach, just targeted hygiene," says professor of environmental health, Dr Lisa Ackerley.

How do they spread?

Colds and flu are viruses that are spread through direct or indirect contact. A cough or sneeze propels droplets of fluid containing the virus. When you sneeze you release thousands of cold virus particles. They can be inhaled by someone else or land on surrounding surfaces.

"Bugs from colds and flu can stay on surfaces for up to 48 hours," says Dr Ackerley who is also spokesperson for the Royal Society of Public Health.

She says: "The most common way of passing it on is hand contact with the cold and flu virus and then rubbing your eyes or nose."

Top 10 cleaning hit list

So what should you clean? Where are those pesky bugs lurking? Try to focus on shared spaces and surfaces that are touched a lot if you want to curb the spread.

1. The remote control

Think of how many times a day the TV remote control is pressed and handled. It is one of the most touched items in your house and possibly the least cleaned.

2. The bathroom

Bathroom taps are more than likely to carry cold and flu viruses when there's someone in the house with the sniffles. The toilet handle is also likely to be germy. If someone throws a used tissue down the loo after blowing their nose or sneezing, which is good practice, they are also going to be using the handle to flush it away.

3. Kitchen surfaces

Worktops, tables and breakfast bars are often touched a lot, and as they are hard-surfaces germs are able to survive for longer on them.

4. Tables

Other tables like coffee tables, bedside tables and desks tend to host the viruses if they aren't wiped down thoroughly.

5. Phones

Mobiles and landline handsets are an obvious place for the cold and flu virus to lurk as they are handled so often.

6. Computers and tablets

When you are feeling under the weather with less energy than usual, you're more likely to turn to the internet for sedentary browsing, a bit of shopping, or maybe even to check out your symptoms! Germs may be spread on the keyboard which the next person to use it may pick up. You may be able to carefully wipe keyboards or screens with an alcohol-based wipe or special computer screen wipe. Don't forget the mouse.

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