Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Microbiology and Your Home

Various biochemical tests indicative of Proteus vulgaris.

Microbiology has been very eye-opening to me in many ways, but especially when it comes to cleaning! Here are some tips on how to keep you and those you love as disease-free as possible:

  1. Don't use antibacterial soap (surprise!). Over-use of these products leads to a buildup of antimicrobial product in the water supply, which, in turn, selects for those organisms that are resistant to antimicrobials. Handwashing appropriately with regular liquid soap should do the job. In fact, handwashing is by far the very best way to prevent the spread of microbial pathogens. If you need extra germ-killing power, use Purell.
  2. Follow the directions on your cleaning products. Disinfectants (bleach, lysol, etc.) need to be used at the appropriate concentration and must have time to work. Bleach (10% solution) can kill HIV, but only if it's at 10%, and is given 10 minutes of contact time.
  3. Clean first, then disinfect. Soap and water mechanically removes dirt, food and lots of bacteria. Often, a disinfectant won't work nearly as well if the surface you are disinfecting is "dirty."
  4. Get a vacuum with a HEPA filter!!!!! This has made a HUGE difference for us, and now I understand why. Vacuums suck in air, and then that air is recirculated back into your room. Filtering this air through the HEPA filter removes most of the bacteria, cleaning the air you breathe.
  5. I've seen some vacuums that have a UV light attached to the front. UV light kills lots of bacteria, but it can take up to 60 seconds to kill some species, and it doesn't have very good penetration. It might be worth the cost, but you might have to aim the light at a spot for 15-60 seconds.
  6. It's true that we need to be exposed to germs in order to build an immune response. However, little kids have very unsophisticated immune systems, and cannot build "memory" like adults can. Do your best to keep your babies and toddlers and preschoolers away from other sickies. Their bodies aren't built to handle it.
Anyone have any other tips on keeping your family healthy?

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