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Germs: Tips & Stuff You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Healthy (but probably don't know)

Posted on February 11, 2013

February is definitely the time for icky stuff like the flu and other nasty problems caused by germs and viruses. Here are a few facts and tips that you may not already know, with some tips to help keep your family healthy this winter and all year long.

Of course, as a bean bag chair enthusiast, I'll mention germs on bean bags first. Studies have shown that cold and flu germs can survive from a few minutes to 48 hours or more on various surfaces.  Germs live longer on non-porous, hard surfaces than on porous such as fabric. But germs definitely do remain on fabrics for some amount of time.  That means that when possible, wash items such as stuffed animals, bedding, couch upholstery and decorative pillows, and bean bag chairs periodically for prevention.  You'll need bean bags with washable covers that are easily removed to throw in your household machine, like Ahh! Products bean bag chairs! If you can throw a cup of bleach in the wash, that is best to kill germs. If not, try something like Clorox 2 detergent because the peroxide helps. In fact, once a month, run a cup of bleach in an empty wash cycle to sanitize your washing machine. Note that sadly, our machines don't usually get hot enough to kill all germs (140-150 degrees needed).  So if you're set on using cold water, use the bleach or at least the peroxide detergent and don't worry about wasting hot water. Did you know that ultraviolet rays kill germs as effectively as bleach? Hang your stuff to dry in the sun if possible, but that might mean outdoor allergen trouble, so perhaps a quick cycle in the dryer post-sun-dry to suck off allergens?  This would be daunting for every load, but perhaps a couple times a month to help with germ and bacteria build up. Or just on heavily used items that don't get washed a lot (like stuffed animals, bean bag chair covers, decorative pillows, etc.). 

Info on germs and how to fight them


We all can guess that if a cotton swab was taken to school and tested, it wouldn't be a pretty picture right?  The top germ hot spots in schools are coat closets and cubbies, keyboards and mice, water fountains, playground equipment, and cafeteria tables and chairs. 

If you've ever had to deal with lice, it's no picnic.  I've been there.  The little buggers spread quickly and are so tiny that usually you don't notice them until your child is already infested and scratching.  At that point, it's actually your child's allergic reaction to the lice bites.  That means there's most likely already eggs laid... yuck! Coat closets and cubbies are where lice gets spread often at school. It's impossible to keep coats, hats, etc. from hanging side by side and touching. But don't let your child take brushes or combs to school as they will inevitably end up being shared and wind up in a cubby where the bugs can migrate to clothing if the brush was infected. Teach your kids to tuck their gloves and hats in sleeves instead of just laying loose in cubbies, that will offer less of a chance for the critters to get on them. Ask them not to share hooks or hangers, but that's a tough one! Periodically wash outerwear as mentioned for bean bags above as a precaution, this time hot water is better for killing lice.  Note, though, that lice and eggs need to be warm and have a blood supply to survive, or they die after about 24 hours, so you don't have to freak out and wash everything. I did, and it took all night long and the rest of the next day, all for nothing really.  Just wash the stuff that your child uses a lot (yes, the bean bag cover, bedding, and outerwear they are using daily).  Keep warm-bodied hosts (your family) away from the other stuff for 24 - 36 hours and you should be fine.  That means for stuffed animals, wash the most used ones and throw the others in quarantine.

For keyboards, mice, and other shared computer equipment, it would be great if they could get wiped down for 20 seconds with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Ask your teacher if this can be done once a week, try to set up a volunteer crew of parents to help out (wipe down desks and chairs while you're at it!). Enlist your kids to help as an afterschool 10 minute activity if the school permits.  As a homeroom Mom, I try to do this weekly with other helpful parents.

And don't forget the water fountain! Studies have shown that water fountains are notorious for having more germs than toilet seats! GROSS! Think about it: the toilets get sanitized daily.  Who cleans the water fountain?  Definitely teach your child not to touch the spigot while drinking!  Add this to the parental wipe-down effort!

Playgrounds have animal droppings, yuck! Sadly, equipment is probably never sanitized, even at school. Teach your kids to avoid bird droppings. It's not realistic to expect them to do much else to avoid germs here, so at least if they have any cuts, make sure you cover them well with bandages.  And ask the teacher to stop at the bathroom for a hand wash after recess if possible, or the kids can go one after the other if the classroom has a bathroom in it.

Cafeteria furniture is germ heaven, especially by the last round of kids. Drill it into your kids to NEVER eat off the table.  No 10 second rule here!

Germs are virtually everywhere, think handrails, ATMs, park benches, shopping carts... be as diligent as possible with sanitizing and cleaning, but the best thing to do, as we all know, is to DRILL IT into your kids to wash their hands with soap and water periodically.  Hand sanitizer, while good at killing germs and great when soap/water isn't available, should be the second choice since I'm not a fan of chemicals on skin.  And, one last note: regular soap does just a good a job as anti-bacterial soap for the most part!

Do you have any tips or interesting information about germs and keeping families healthy?  I'd love to hear about them!

Yours truly, Jade

Jade is the founder and CEO of Ahh! Products. Find her on

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