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Keep a germ-free home for the holidays

Updated: Nov 27, 2013 11:13 AM
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By Sharon Liao
From Ideas That Spark 

The holidays are all about opening your doors and welcoming friends and family. But along with hostess gifts, your guests may also bring sniffle-causing viruses and colds. To keep your family healthy throughout the season, follow this smart germ-free game plan:

Germ-free move No. 1: Wipe down surfaces.

"Cold and flu viruses can live outside of the body for up to two days," says Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. To avoid transferring those germs to your own eyes, nose or mouth, disinfect and sanitize common areas daily: Besides countertops, make sure to clean doorknobs, light switches and remote controls.

Germ-free move No. 2: Wash linens and towels.

After your houseguest leaves, make sure to launder those towels and bedding. Also assign each person his or her own hand towel, so you won't pick up germs while drying off. (If you're throwing a get-together, consider setting out a number of hand towels or using paper towels.)

Germ-free move No. 3: Disinfect fabrics.

For fabrics that you can't toss in the washing machine, such as cushions and curtains, use a disinfecting fabric spray to neutralize microbes. Bonus: You'll freshen up the room in the process.

Germ-free move No. 4: Use trashcan liners.

Used tissues are teeming with viruses. To avoid accidentally touching one as you're empting the trash, line all of those containers with trash bags and sanitize them regularly.

Germ-free move No. 5: Sanitize hands.

Washing your hands is the best way to fend off colds and flu, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also do the trick. To encourage your guests to keep clean, place bottles of sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in common areas and place a small travel bottle in their room.

Germ-free move No. 6: Make your health a priority.

When you're entertaining, it's easy to get swept up in a miles-long to-do list. But don't skimp on sleep to play hostess. Falling short on shut-eye weakens your immune system, which may leave you vulnerable to viruses.

And carve out a little time to exercise: A study from Appalachian State University found that people who exercised five times a week had 43 percent sick days than their couch potato counterparts. Remember that spending a little extra time on your health now can prevent you from becoming wiped out with a nasty cold down the road.

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