LOGAN — Staying healthy has obviously become a big challenge these days. With so many illnesses like the COVID virus circulating, an expert said it’s an important time to reevaluate hygiene habits.
Emma Parkhurst, a USU Extension assistant professor of health and wellness, asks how often items used daily are cleaned and disinfected.
“Can you reinfect yourself with items such as a toothbrush or reusable water bottle?” wrote Parkhurst, who offered the following suggestions.
GENERAL CLEANING AND DISINFECTING
— Clean regularly using a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent. Using this type of cleaner will reduce the number of germs on surfaces, which decreases the risk of infection. Areas to focus on include high-touch surfaces such as light switches, electronics, doorknobs, countertops, etc.
— If someone in your household is ill or someone who has been in your home within the last 24 hours falls ill, it is recommended to disinfect to kill any remaining germs. Always follow the directions of the disinfectant and wash your hands immediately after use.
— Wear a mask when cleaning areas the sick person used, and open windows and use fans to help increase airflow.
— Remember all the usual precautions – wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when water and soap are not available, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with sick people and avoid sharing personal items with them, immunize yourself from infectious diseases, and stay home when you do not feel well.
Although it’s commonly recommended to replace your toothbrush after an illness due to the chance of becoming re-infected, professionals agree this isn’t typically true for viruses. After your body has fought off a virus, such as the flu or COVID, in most cases your immune system will have developed the necessary protection to prevent reinfection of that particular virus.
With that being said, it is possible to infect others if the contaminated toothbrush comes into contact with another brush. Additionally, a toothbrush can be the cause of reinfection of a bacterial illness, such as strep throat. Since bacteria will die in the presence of oxygen, bacteria on a toothbrush that properly air dries between each use generally is not an issue for reinfection. However, bacteria can colonize if the bristles do not dry completely, which is why some professionals agree it is best practice to replace a brush after a bacterial illness. The CDC recommends against using dishwashers, microwaves, or other means to disinfect toothbrushes, as these methods may damage the brush.
How do you avoid reinfection from a commonly used item that travels back and forth with most people? According to Michigan State University Extension, you should wash the bottle in hot water with a teaspoon of unscented dish soap each day to reduce the risk of illness from bacterial growth. Soak the bottle in soapy water for a few minutes, rinse it well using warm water, and allow it to completely dry before the next use.
Alternatively, you can clean and sanitize bottles in the dishwasher if they are dishwasher safe. Avoid letting your water bottle sit with water left in it for long periods of time. Although COVID and the flu primarily spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes, experts recommend washing and sanitizing bottles after each use. Do not share a water bottle with someone who has cold-like symptoms.