Even days after our son, Thomas, stopped showing symptoms of a recent bout of stomach illness, people who came into contact with him started dropping like flies. First, Adam and me (I even landed myself in the emergency room!), then Thomas’ grandfather and both of his grandmothers, Thomas’ godmother, and three family friends. My best efforts to keep a clean home clearly weren’t up to the challenge of this persistent virus. So with a little research, I made a check list for how to get my family healthy and stop spreading our illnesses to the people we care about.
- Wash your hands thoroughly, especially before and after eating, after going to the bathroom, and after changing diapers.
- If possible, separate sick family members from well family members. Ideally, leave yourself only one bathroom you need to sanitize frequently.
- Don’t let anyone share food, drinks, or eating utensils with you or your family members for at least three days after everyone is symptom free.
- Don’t let healthy people change a sick baby’s diaper if you can possibly help it, no matter how tired or sick you are. (Thomas’ generous grand and godmothers seem to have picked up their illnesses this way.) Keep a pair of rubber gloves around for diaper changes when a baby is sick. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water when you’re done.
- Don’t prepare food for anyone for at least three days after you’re symptom-free.
- Clean as often as possible until your family has completely recovered.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands from both germs and cleaning chemicals.
- Wipe down all the contaminated surfaces in the house. Think creatively about where germs may be hiding. Bathrooms (especially toilet handles!) and kitchen counters are obvious, but phones, computer keyboards, and door handles are just as likely to be contaminated.
- For many common bacterial infections, stick with eco-friendly alternatives that won’t bring unnecessary toxins in your home. Check out Experimental Wifery’s homemade bathroom cleaners for a great antibacterial alternative. Also consider white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. White vinegar kills more than 99% of bacteria and hydrogen peroxide is used to disinfect hospitals with lower risk of allergic reaction in patients.
- For viruses and some other particularly nasty illnesses, there isn’t an organic solution. In these cases use bleach. Mix 1/4 cup of bleach with 2 1/4 cups of water to clean bathrooms and other areas that have come directly into contact with contagions like mucus or vomit. For the rest of the house, dilute the mixture further by taking 1 cup of the concentrated solution and adding 9 cups of water.
- Empty every trashcan in the house. Be especially sure to remove tissues and soiled diapers where harmful germs may be lurking.
- Wash clothes for the longest cycle-length and at the hottest temperature that won’t damage them. Machine dry clothes afterward.
- Wash and replace linens and towels regularly while the patient is sick and then again immediately afterward.
- Put everything dishwasher-safe through a hot cycle. In addition to dishes, include things like teethers and plastic toys on the top rack.
- Boil all toothbrushes for at least ten minutes—or throw them away and purchase new ones.
- Stay home for at least the first 24 hours after you’ve been ill. Make sure your family members do, too. The general rule is, patients aren’t contagious after they have been fever-, vomiting-, and diarrhea-free for 24 hours. In reality, some diseases stick around a lot longer. Severe gastrointestinal viruses, for example, are contagious for at least 3 days after you’ve stopped feeling symptoms.
How do you get rid of illnesses in your home?