It’s flu season and this year the numbers are staggering. Almost 15,000 Americans have been hospitalized since October of last year. The flu has taken the lives of 53 children so far. In fact, the flu sends more young children to the hospital than any other vaccine-preventable illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best way to prevent it and its complications is to get the flu vaccine for yourself and your family. It’s recommended for children as young as 6 months old.
Of course, the vaccine’s effectiveness varies widely from season to season, so parents need to be vigilant when it comes to containing germs. Not just in the house, where many of us are trained to wipe down surfaces like door knobs and light switches, but also in the car which can also be a breeding ground for germs. That’s especially true if you carpool.
Here are some tips how to help keep your car from becoming a petri dish:
What to Keep in the Car:
- Box of tissues: While it’s 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 you’re 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 didn’t 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 isn’t careful, it’s 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 house’s 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 child’s 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 car’s frequently- touched surfaces after depositing the carpoolers at their homes and finally getting to your own.
There’s 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 Directons: First, read the car seat’s 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.
- Don’t Use the Washing Machine: Don’t wash the seatbelt straps in the washing machine because it can affect its fiber strength and wash away fire retardants.
Again, read the owner’s 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.
Other Ways To Keep Your Car Germ-Free
Some final thoughts, don’t forget to wipe down your key and fob and don’t 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.
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