Staying healthy throughout cold and flu season can be a lofty challenge at any age. The unpleasant feeling of congestion, sneezing, coughing, along with severe aches and pains is often more than enough reason for someone to avoid it like the plague. Well, ready or not – fall is in the air, making it the official start of the cold and flu season. Fortunately, aside from the recommended vaccinations, there’s a few extra precautions you can take to prevent viruses from darkening your doorstep.
1. Minimize Mold
While mold isn’t directly linked to cold and flu viruses, its long-term impact on your immune system can make you highly susceptible to the harmful effects of respiratory illnesses. There are more than 100,000 species of mold, and they thrive in places where high moisture levels are common. Make sure you clean your bathrooms regularly, wiping down wet surfaces. Promptly replace broken tiles or worn out caulking to discourage mold growth. Check under your bathroom and kitchen sinks for leaky pipes, even the smallest trickle can turn into a prime location for mold.
2. Ensure Proper Ventilation
Make sure that your bathrooms and kitchen have proper ventilation. Bathrooms are the biggest source of moisture in any home. If there’s no place for that moisture to go, then it becomes a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Bathroom fans should be run during as well as 10 minutes after every bath and shower. It’s also important to make sure your kitchen ventilation doesn’t just recirculate air, but exhausts cooking fumes & pollutants outdoors.
3. Minimize Dust
Dust is an upper respiratory irritant; too much accumulated dust can cause inflammation, which weakens your body’s respiratory system. You can minimize household dust with regular vacuuming. Just be sure that your vacuum has a HEPA filter. HEPA is a type of filter that can trap a large number of very small particles (as tiny as 0.3 microns) that other vacuum cleaners would simply recirculate back into the air of your home. HEPA vacuums are recommended for minimizing dust, dander, and other common allergens in homes where people suffer from allergies, compromised immune systems and respiratory ailments.
4. Adjust Your Thermostat
Viruses and bacteria thrive in cooler temperatures and drier conditions. Cold and flu particles that are released into the air through sneezing or coughing can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours. The warmer and more humid your home is, the more likely these particles will go inactive sooner. So make sure to keep your home’s temperature set at a minimum of 68 degrees during cold and flu season with ample moisture in the air.
5. Select the Right Filters & Change Them Often
Dirty air filters are not only detrimental to your home’s HVAC system, but also to your family’s health. As a general rule, when replacing your air filter, choose one that has a MERV rating between 7 and 12. These filters are pleated and can trap bacteria, dust, pollen, and pet dander. Higher MERV ratings are promoted to trap an increased amount of pollutants, but they also can restrict airflow, causing your HVAC system to work harder to heat and cool your home. Remember to change your filter every 2-3 months during cold and flu season, doing so can further prevent bacteria and germs from passing through your home.
6. Control Home Humidity
If you don’t own one already, invest in a hygrometer. A hygrometer consistently measures indoor humidity. On average it is suggested that your home stay in the 40-50% humidity range during the winter months. Too much humidity encourages mold and bacteria growth. Too little humidity can cause cold and flu particles to live longer, both in the air and on surfaces. If you find that you’re constantly battling humidity levels, ask an HVAC professional what your options are for whole-home humidification (winter) or dehumidification (summer) solutions.
7. Leave Your Shoes at the Door
This rule doesn’t just apply to guests. Flu viruses and bacteria are known to hang out in mud, dirt, and other debris. Keep the muck out of your treads or be prepared to leave your shoes at the door. It’s always good to keep a clean doormat on both the inside and outside of every door.
Cold and flu viruses can live for 2-8 hours on hard surfaces. It comes as no surprise that it’s common for people to get infected by simply touching a phone, faucet, doorknob, light switch, or remote control. Load up on sanitizing, antiviral wipes or solutions and disinfect your most commonly used household surfaces daily.
9. Launder Your Linens
One of your biggest allies against the war on bacteria and germs is your washer and dryer. Keep bacteria at bay by washing your linens, towels, rugs and even your window treatments frequently in hot water.
10. Diffuse Essential Oils
Essential oils have become a popular natural source for purifying your indoor air. Scents such as lavender, tea tree or eucalyptus are rich in anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties – used to both improve immune system health and promote cleaner, healthier air.
11. Wash Your Hands
Good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of any infectious illness. So if you’re avoiding those cold and flu germs that seem to everywhere this time of year, wash those hands often.
12. Consider a Whole-Home Air Cleaner
Whole-home air filtration and purification systems work in conjunction with your home’s HVAC system to capture and kill up to 99 percent of harmful airborne particles in your home. For added protection you can also consider installing an ultraviolet (UV) light component. Both products will work together to leave the air that you breathe cleaner and healthier for your whole family.