Today's Medicine

Flu Prevention: Top Tips from the Pros


It’s in all the latest headlines – the terrible cold and flu outbreaks sweeping the nation. Flu cases are at record numbers with no signs of slowing down.

So what can you do to prevent the viruses, bacteria and germs that are making people sick from invading your home? In our Methodist hospitals and clinics, we work hard to kill these nasty bugs to protect our patients and guests. Some of our techniques may also help you keep your home, office and school spaces safe.

Use the right tools

The flu virus can “live” on some surfaces for up to 24 hours. Disinfecting those surfaces is the best way to reduce the spread of those viruses. So how can you kill them?

Many common household cleaning products do a good job of eradicating the flu virus. Look for products that contain:

  • Chlorine
  • Hyrdogen
  • Detergents (soap)
  • Iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics)
  • Alcohols

Really, any disinfectant will do the job. One common recommendation, if you are cleaning a color-safe surface, is to mix a ½ cup of bleach with a gallon of hot water. Just be sure to keep all cleaning chemicals out of the reach of small children, and make sure they don’t put any harmful products or solutions in their mouth or eyes.

And when it comes to wiping down, throw out those nasty kitchen sponges. They can be breeding grounds for bacteria. Use paper towels and disposable wipes wherever possible.

Where to clean

Since germs are spread by infected people, the germs go everywhere people do. Your strategies for killing those germs need to include disinfecting areas you may not have thought of:

  • Doorknobs
  • Hand rails
  • Desks
  • Tables
  • Faucets
  • Computer keyboards and mice
  • Phones
  • Remote controls
  • Video game controllers
  • Elevator buttons
  • Toys

Don’t forget the laundry

Clothes, towels and bedding – and yes, those favorite stuffed animals – can be a key culprit in spreading infectious germs and flu. Wash items in the hottest water safe for the fabric and use color-safe bleach to wipe out germs.

When handling dirty laundry, carry items in a basket instead of hugging potentially contaminated clothes to your chest. Pour the items directly into the machine if possible and wash your hands after handling dirty materials.

The best prevention

Don’t get so focused on disinfecting surfaces that you neglect the three most important things you can do to keep flu germs out of your life.

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Stay away from those who are ill if at all possible.
  • If you are sick, stay home. Cover your mouth when you cough, preferably with something other than your hand.
  • Get the flu vaccine every year.

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Talk with your Methodist Physicians Clinic health care provider for the best way to keep the flu away.

About the Author

Dr. Rudolf Kotula is a board-certified infectious disease physician. He specializes in areas such as antibiotic resistance, travel medicine and infection prevention.

You can visit Dr. Kotula at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

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