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Fight colds and flu safely

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Wheezing and sniffing? Find out how to stay healthy by fighting germs without using harsh chemicals.

In the season of wheezing and sniffling, some may have head colds and others might be reacting to harsh cleaning chemicals. How can you avoid colds and stay healthy? Be aware of the best ways to reduce germs without harsh chemicals.

Wash hands with plain soap. 

Experts say that cold germs most commonly spread through personal contact. Hand washing with plain soap is the single best way to stop the germs.  (See source)

  • Castile soap or vegetable-based soap is easy on the skin and the environment. (See source)
  • Avoid “antibacterial” soap: Triclosan is a chemical used in many liquid soaps marketed as “antibacterial.” It doesn’t reduce colds and flu, and it is toxic to aquatic life when it washes down the drain. (See source)
  • Skip fragrance, dye and artificial detergent to avoid allergies, skin irritation and asthma.  (See source)

Choose simplest hand sanitizers. 

Hand washing only works of people do it properly! Hand sanitizers can be an effective alternative, but should be used with caution. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hand sanitizers that contain 60% or more alcohol are effective at killing germs. (See source)

  • Read the label: not all sanitizers contain enough alcohol to kill germs. (See source)
  • Use on clean hands: Sanitizers won’t remove dirt or oil
  • Avoid isopropanol if you’re sensitive: it can irritate the lungs. 
  • Avoid sanitizers with added fragrance, color or other ingredients that may cause asthma or allergic reactions. (See source)

Sanitize surfaces safely

In the right conditions, germs can survive on hard surfaces. You can reduce germs if you “sanitize” countertops, doorknobs, phones and other well-used public surfaces—but beware the harsh chemicals that can trigger asthma and pollute waterways! 

Skip bleach, or use it sparingly: A scant teaspoon of bleach in a quart of water is an effective sanitizer. Using greater concentrations creates undue pollution and can irritate lungs, eyes and skin. (See source)

Try hydrogen peroxide: The cheap brown bottle of 3% peroxide in the first aid aisle is a great germ-killer! Spray it onto clean surfaces and let it sit for 10 minutes. It breaks down harmlessly into water. You can pour it into a spray bottle, but store peroxide in a dark container to keep it from breaking down. (See source)

Vinegar can kill some germs, too: White vinegar, when heated to 130 F, is an effective sanitizer (for some, but not all, germs) when left on surfaces for one minute. That’s about the temperature of very hot tap water. Caution: don’t combine vinegar and peroxide! The mix can be dangerous. (See source)

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