The pandemic has changed our relationship with germs as many of us have gone out of our way to ensure that we are practicing proper hygiene to avoid spreading the virus. Isabel Valdez, a physician assistant and assistant professor of general internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, gives us some tips on how to practice good hygiene habits in one of the places where germs can spread quickly – the bathroom.
“We need to continue to practice our usual hygiene routine of washing our hands for 20 seconds regularly, especially after using the restroom,” Valdez said.
She also recommends putting the toilet seat lid down before flushing if there is one available, because flushing can cause particles from the toilet to become airborne. At home, be sure to keep toothbrushes far away from the toilet to avoid any airborne particles from the toilet from coming into contact with them. Keeping the lid down also is a smart way to protect small children from mishaps in the toilet, such as dropping their toys or playing with the toilet water.
When using public restrooms, try not to bring any food or drinks into the bathroom stall with you and instead leave them near the sink or vanity if you must have them with you. When flushable toilet seat covers are available in public restrooms, Valdez encourages each person to use them to protect from visible debris or simply wipe the seat. She says each person should decide on their own whether to use them based on their comfort level. While they do provide a physical barrier between the toilet and your skin, they’re not necessary to prevent germs from spreading because these are made with porous paper and do not prevent from coming into contact with tiny viruses or bacteria.
Valdez says it’s a good idea to clean and disinfect bathrooms at home regularly, but consider cleaning them more frequently if someone in the household is sick, especially if they are suffering from gastrointestinal issues. Putting the lid down before flushing the toilet is especially important in these cases. Using disinfecting wipes between more detailed cleaning is a convenient way to protect the household when someone is ill. Valdez reminds us that proper hand washing is extremely important when someone in the home is sick to prevent the risk of passing on the infection among family members.
When disinfecting surfaces, be sure to read product instructions carefully to see how long to leave a disinfectant on a surface for it to be effective. Many products can take several seconds or minutes to disinfect a surface properly. Also be sure to follow any safety precautions recommended on the product instructions, such as wearing gloves or having proper ventilation for the space.