With the holidays behind us, it’s time to focus on the next season on the calendar: cold and flu season. While a somewhat less joyful occasion to prepare for, it’s equally as important to help your household stop the spread of germs.
So, why is winter such a potent time for germs? The temperature isn’t to blame on its own; rather, when the thermostat drops, we all naturally engage in habits that are ideal for helping to spread the cold and flu viruses. We hunker down inside to stay warm, we spend more time in close contact with others, we dial back healthy-eating and exercise habits. Generally speaking, we hibernate.
While there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s cold outside, there are some strategies you can employ to help stop germs from spreading.
Start with a healthy immune system.
There’s a strong correlation between building up a healthy immune system and cold and flu prevention. When your immune system is functioning as it should, your body is better equipped to handle germs that might otherwise knock you out. (That’s why you might not get sick from sitting next to someone who’s wheezing—but your friend or partner might.) There’s really no reason not to take an active role in building up your immunity, but be aware: simply popping vitamins might not be the answer.
Embrace a healthy lifestyle.
According to research published by Harvard University, building immunity is best addressed through a holistic approach to wellness. That means eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting your consumption of saturated fats, sugars, red meat, and alcohol. It means getting enough sleep at night (around 6-8 hours is ideal), and aiming for 150 minutes per week of physical exercise, as defined by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are also factors to help keep your immune system functioning at its best to help ward off illness.
Don’t worry about being too clean.
Embracing a little dirt in our lives may be a good thing. According to research published in the Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, living in hyper-sterilized environment with decreased microbial exposure during childhood can actually contribute to the development of autoimmune and allergic diseases later. This research—known as the “hygiene hypothesis”—has prompted scientists such as Jack Gilbert, who studies microbial systems at the University of Chicago, to encourage parents to let their kids go out in the yard and get a little dirty. (Curious? You can read more in Gilbert’s book, Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for your Child’s Developing Immune System.)
…But disinfect those germ hot-spots.
A little garden dirt might help you become more resistant to bugs down the road. But there are also areas of your home that are breeding grounds for the germs that can cause illness. According to research conducted by Charles River Laboratories, an international research lab with headquarters in Wilmington, MA., and the National Sanitation Foundation International, an independent public health and safety organization in Ann Arbor, MI., the germiest locations in your house may not be where you’d think. Most people guess that bathrooms harbor the most germs, but that’s not always the case. Here’s what the research turned up:
- According to the Society for General Microbiology, bacteria can divide as quickly as every 20 minutes under the right conditions. (That’s why a disinfecting routine can help kill household germs)..)
- A study conducted by Charles River Laboratories found more than 340 different types of bacteria on 30 different objects found in the typical home.
- Of these 30-some objects, some of the germiest are your dish sponge, your toothbrush holder, your pet’s bowl, the kitchen sink, and the coffee reservoir.
- Cutting boards and kitchen countertops can be hotbeds for bacteria. According to the NSF, food-prep and storage areas are far more contaminated than your bathroom.
When looking for a disinfectant, pay close attention to labels. Did you know many disinfecting products require rinsing after use? Also, look for ingredients you feel most comfortable using around your home and family. Seventh Generation’s botanical disinfectants use CleanWell® Proprietary Disinfecting Technology to disinfect in one easy step – no rinsing required. Our full disinfecting family of products, from our Disinfecting Wipes to our Disinfectant Sprays, kill 99.99% of household germs. So whether you choose a disinfectant spray to hit the hard plastic toys in your kids’ toy box after a playdate, or pack a disinfecting wipes with you to tackle areas of your car or doorknobs while you’re on-the-go, our botanical disinfectants can help you get the job done.
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