Help! I’m Surrounded by Cold and Flu Germs
Cold and flu germs are everywhere! Has this ever happened to you? You’re quietly enjoying your movie when the person sitting next to you loudly sneezes, with water droplets flying everywhere.
Or, you’re at a business meeting when a new colleague wants to shake your hand, and you noticed out of the corner of your eye that she just blew her nose. How about at the gym, when the weight station you’re at was just used by someone coughing. And then there’s the experience traveling when everyone around you seems to be coughing, sniffling and suffering from runny noses. Ah, the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
Do you ever wonder why, when someone isn’t in such close proximity to you, you’re still vulnerable to their cold and flu germs?
Here are the top 10 reasons how cold and flu germs not only spread but survive long after the germ carrier has left the scene.
- There are many different viruses that can cause colds. The viruses can sometimes survive on indoor surfaces for more than seven days. In general, viruses survive for longer on non-porous (water resistant surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastics, than porous surfaces, such as fabrics and tissues.)
- Most viruses which cause colds only survive on hands for a short amount of time. Some only last for a few minutes but 40% of rhinoviruses, a common cold-causing virus, are still infectious on hands after one hour.
- Cold and flu germ-laden droplets may remain infectious for several hours, depending on where they fall.
- Other factors, such as the amount of virus deposited on a surface and the temperature and humidity of the environment, also determine how long cold and flu germs stay active outside the body.
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), another cold-like virus that can cause serious illness in children, can survive on worktops and door handles for up to six hours, on clothing, and tissues for 30-45 minutes and on skin for up to 20 minutes.
- Flu viruses capable of being transferred to hands and causing an infection can survive on hard surfaces for 24 hours. Infectious flu viruses can survive on tissues for only 15 minutes.
- Like cold viruses, infectious flu viruses survive for much shorter periods on the hands. After five minutes the amount of flu virus on hands falls to low levels.
- Flu viruses can also survive as droplets in the air for several hours; low temperatures increase their survival in the air.
- Parainfluenza virus, which causes croup in children, can survive for up to 10 hours on hard surfaces and up to four hours on soft surfaces.
- Herpes viruses from cold sores around the mouth can survive for four hours on plastic, three hours on cloth and two hours on the skin. If you have a cold sore, try not to touch it. If you do touch it, for example to apply cold sore cream, wash your hands immediately afterwards.
That’s life, everyday living…..you’re constantly being exposed no matter what. However, there are protocols you can follow which may reduce your risk.
- Wash your hands regularly, particularly after going to the toilet, before handling food and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Avoid rubbing our eyes or biting your nails.
- Keep your home clean and hygienic, particularly if a member of your family is unwell.
- Wash fabrics that may be contaminated with bacteria or viruses at 60C (140F) and with a bleach-based laundry product.
- Bottom line is, unless you’re living in a bubble, you’re surrounded by cold and flu germs. The best line of defense is to ensure you practice healthy living habits – which include keeping surfaces sanitized and washing your hands.