Cold and flu season is once again upon us and that means germs will soon be coming at us from all directions, including from inside our own vehicles.
Flu cases are low right now
, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but things really get hopping in December and flu season runs through March. So there is still time to get your flu prevention plan of attack ready and help keep your family SUV as germ-free as possible. Itís serious business, too. The CDC says during last yearís flu season
there were an estimated 11.5 million cases of influenza in children, 30 million in working adults and more than 7.3 million cases in seniors aged 65 or older.
Get a Flu Shot:
A flu shot is your first defense. The CDC
recommends one for anyone 6 months old or older. The CDC says flu vaccines have been updated this year to better match circulating viruses in 2018-2019. Note, it takes 2 weeks for vaccine immunity to develop after vaccination.
So you have your flu shot, now itís time to focus on your vehicle. While many of us are trained to wipe down frequently-touched surfaces in our homes (door knobs, light switches) whenever someone has the flu or a nasty cold, how often do those practices carry over to the family car, especially if you carpool?
Here are some tips for keeping your car from becoming a petri dish:
What to Keep in the Car:
- Box of tissues: While itís questionable as to whether your kids will actually use them, keeping tissues handy will hopefully encourage your children to use them when they sneeze. While youíre at it, keep a small trash bag in the back seat to gather the used tissues.
- Hand sanitizer: Keep this on hand for easy cleanups when kiddos didnít have enough time to grab a tissue before sneezing. They also help adults clean up their hands after pumping gas.
- Baby wipes: These are great for wiping down not only the kids but also frequently-touched surfaces like the steering wheel, radio buttons, door handles and window switches. Think twice before using bleach wipes in your car because the harsh chemicals could damage the interior.
Carting your sick children in the car is one thing, but things get even riskier when you carpool. If everyone isnít careful, itís easy for the kids to pass the same cold around. These tips will help keep all the kids in your carpool a little healthier this winter:
- Use Hand Sanitizer: If another parent in the carpool is dropping off your child at your house, make sure to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer inside your houseís front door to keep the germs at bay. Or even better, train your kids to go straight to the bathroom or kitchen sink when they get home to wash their hands with soap.
- Wipe Down Backpacks: Also, make sure to wipe down your childís backpack straps (if he or she uses one) to help thwart the spread of germs.
- Wipe Down Car Surfaces: While you may be ready to declare germ warfare on the bacteria the carpooling kids are bringing with them, realize that not all parents will want you to hose down their kids with sanitizer. Instead focus on wiping down the carís frequently- touched surfaces after depositing the carpoolers at their homes and finally getting to your own.
Thereís one last front to consider in the car: car seats. Car seats really get dirty and hold a lot of germs. Cleaning them requires a couple of steps:
- Follow Directions: First, read the car seatís manual before doing anything. Any missteps when cleaning it could make the car seat unsafe.
- Clean the Car Seat: To clean the plastic shell, most manufacturers recommend using a damp cloth and mild soap. The seatbelt straps should be wiped down with a damp cloth, too. Some manufacturers allow the use of a mild soap to clean it but check the manual before cleaning.
- Donít Use the Washing Machine: Donít wash the seatbelt straps in the washing machine because it can affect its fiber strength and wash away fire retardants.
Car seats really get dirty and hold a lot of germs. Again, read the ownerís manual before washing or consider having it done by a detailing professional. Some manufacturers allow the covers to be machine-washed (and likely air-dried), while others prefer hand shampooing and air-drying.
Some final thoughts, donít forget to wipe down your key and fob, and donít forget the door handles inside and outside. Also, if you are prone to allergies, find out if your vehicle has a cabin air filter, it probably does. If it has one, most people should change those filters every 15,000 miles to keep the air as clean as possible in your vehicle.Photo Copyright: Fineart1/Shutterstock