Keep the flu out of your home, classrooms and work

Simple steps like handwashing, sanitizing, disinfecting surfaces and avoiding physical contact can help prevent flu at home, school and work.
Written by: Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Hannah Echols

Inside flu out ofAccording to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the number of Alabamians showing signs of flu-like illness is rising with every passing week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Alabama to be one of three states with the heaviest flu outbreak.

Homes, classrooms and workplaces are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham discuss how to limit the spread in these places to protect your friends, family and coworkers.

Start at home

“You cannot germ-proof your home, but you can clean and disinfect things to improve chances of preventing the flu,” said Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Public Health.

Cleaning commonly touched surfaces with soap and water and disinfectant sprays can kill germs and lower chances of becoming infected.  The biggest germ sources in the home are surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, toys, phones, and faucet handles.

If you have someone sick in your home, Judd advises to avoid sharing items such as glasses, silverware and towels with them.

“If it is possible, choose a bathroom for the sick person to use and their own bedroom to sleep in and plan to clean these rooms daily,” Judd said. “Frequently washing your hands and having disposable facemasks, especially for house members with medical conditions, are also good preventive measures.”

Educate children in the classroom

Teaching children about the flu and other contagious diseases starts at home but should continue at school as well. Children spend most of their day at school or daycare, and they need to be healthy and present to succeed in the classroom.

“There is concern that there will be higher rates of the common cold and flu this season due to less exposure to viruses and lower immunity stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is essential that school administrators, teacher and students to remain vigilant,” said Retta Evans, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Education. “Finding ways to incorporate hand and surface hygiene education into your lesson plans makes learning fun and will resonate with younger children more.”  

In classrooms, educators should take charge of teaching cleanliness and disinfecting techniques. Some activities include:

  • Sing “If You Are Happy and You Know It, Scrub Your Hands” while washing your hands to ensure that students wash for the appropriate amount of time.
  • Model how to wash your hands with the appropriate amount of soap.
  • Cough or sneeze in their elbow/sleeve if tissues are not available.
  • Simulate how germs spread by using a drop of unscented lotion and a pinch of glitter. Make a fist with glitter in it, then open the hand to show how glitter spreads. The teacher touches another child’s hand to show how the glitter spreads easily. Use a paper towel to wipe off the glitter. The glitter is hard to get off, showing how easily germs spread from person to person. 

Parents can also contribute to promoting keeping germs out of the classrooms by:

  • Send hand sanitizer paper towels, tissues, and disinfectants to help keep the classroom clean.
  • Keep the child at home if they are running a fever, coughing or sneezing excessively or if they are lethargic or showing other symptoms of the flu. If symptoms persist, call your pediatrician.
  • Talk to your children about the flu and its symptoms, so they can self-identify and practice self-care.
  • Teach children proper hand-washing techniques by supervising them for the first few times.
  • Exemplify cleaning behaviors by keeping your home organized and disinfected.

Inside by the workKeep it clean at work

Similar to infection prevent at home, Judd says following simple hygiene rules in the workplace can keep yourself and co-workers safe:

  • Stay home if you are not feeling well.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Sanitize your hands often.
  • Reconsider eating together if you or one of your colleagues has cold/flu symptoms.
  • Minimize close contact such as shaking hands and giving hugs.
  • Have cleaning supplies such as disinfectant wipes and sanitizers readily available.

If you have flu-like symptoms, isolate yourself. If symptoms persist, see a doctor. To keep yourself and others from getting seriously ill, get your flu shot at UAB today.