Every day that my children go to school, I worry about what possible sniffle, cold or flulike ailment they will be returning home with at the end of the day.  For awhile my family was spared and I thought we might just beat cold and flu season this year.  But things changed recently and we were invaded by the flu. We each stayed home for a few days as to not spread it to others. But with four sick family members, home became a haven for germs.

We’ve been taught and programmed to believe that washing our hands will prevent the spread of the flu. And while it will help, we all need to understand that it won’t always prevent us from spreading germs from one surface to another. Even if you have a strict hand-washing rule in your home, there are other ways that the germs spread. Germs do not discriminate; they to spread anywhere people are and in sometimes sneaky ways.

Here are a few tips - which my family and I are following - to prevent the reoccurring spread of the flu virus within the home.

Remove Your Shoes - The first thing we all do before we even close the door behind us is remove our shoes. I placed a shoe rack by the door to make sure no one forgets to remove their shoes. We need to keep in mind that shoes pick up a lot of debris from the pavement and other surfaces that may carry the flu virus or other germs into our home.

Wash Hands - After hanging our coats, the second thing we all do is run to the bathroom to wash our hands with antibacterial soap. I make sure that the kids use warm water and soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important to us because we have a pre-school son who loves to hug and kiss his classmates.

Clean Items That Are Handled Often – Make sure to clean the things that are touched the most such as the telephone, cell phones, toys, light switches, doorknobs, Wii and X-Box remote controls, etc. These items may not be regularly cleaned or disinfected, but should be. Wipe them down with a antibacterial pre-moistened wipe like Clorox Disinfecting to help eliminate germs and bacteria.

Disinfect Surfaces – High traffic areas such as the kitchen counter top, the refrigerator door, the doorknob to both the front door and the bathroom door should be wipe down on a regular basis with inexpensive rubbing alcohol -- 70% or 90%.  You can also do as my grandmother did and use a combination of bleach and water or vinegar and water. . For bleach, combine ten parts water to one part bleach, for vinegar use 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 war water.

Wash, Wash, Wash – I wash bed clothes; pajamas and any article of clothing that have been touched by anyone with the flu, at least every other day in the warmest water possible with a splash of chlorine bleach. Washing everything is an important key to fighting the reoccurring flu virus that may come into your home. Also avoid “hugging” laundry to your body before washing it to prevent contaminating yourself.

Circulate Fresh Air – Make sure to crack a window or door to let in fresh air, rather than just breathing the same stale, germy air.

Freeze Stuffed Animals  - Children and stuffed animal are synonymous but did you know that stuffed animals are a germ hot bed?  You can kill these germs by spraying them down with Lysol, and placing them in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag. Place the bag in the freezer for 48 hours. 48 is the magic number because dust mites cannot survive in such cold temperatures and the flu germ does not live pass 48 hours outside the body.

Line Trashcans – Make sure to line them with the inexpensive plastic bags from the grocery store so you can throw away all tissues without touching them yourself.

Marlene Pratt is the co-founder of Casa Latina, an interior designer and on-air television host on both English and Spanish-language television. Follow Marlene on Twitter at @CasaLatinaToday and Like her FB page

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