It’s the final cold & flu season of the decade. To keep people safe from these germs and viruses, known as rhinovirus and influenza, you need to know how to prevent cold and flu from infecting your customers and employees.
In the past 10 years, 49 million people have been infected with the flu in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
As for the common cold, one person can acquire 3 infections in a single year. That number more than doubles for children, who tend to get sick more frequently.
While it’s not entirely clear how severe this year’s cold & flu season will be, we do know that thousands will be getting sick from these pathogens during the next 6 months.
These people include your customers, employees, and others who visit your facility or business.
Understanding how to prevent cold & flu can keep people from getting sick, keep your facility clean and safe, and help you avoid an outbreak that can impact operations and revenue.
HOW COLD AND FLU GERMS SPREAD
Both influenza and rhinovirus spread easily and quickly, which is why they are so contagious. Something as simple as sneezing can spread cold and flu germs rapidly, infecting others. These germs can survive also survive in the air for hours after someone coughs or sneezes without covering their mouths.
The influenza virus can live on solid, non-porous surfaces for up to 24 hours, and it can live for up to 15 minutes on porous surfaces like dirty towels or tissues. Elderly individuals, children, and people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to these pathogens. So much so that if they acquire an infection from either one, it can be life-threatening and dangerous.
HOW TO PREVENT COLD AND FLU GERMS FROM GETTING PEOPLE SICK
Eradicating cold and flu viruses should be your top priority to keep people safe this season. Customers and employees should be able to trust you to keep them safe and protected from anything that could jeopardize their health or well-being. Use the tips listed below to learn how to prevent cold and flu from sickening people in your facility or business.
SANITIZE AND DISINFECT SURFACES REGULARLY
The best way to keep your facility safe from the spread of cold and flu germs is to follow the age-old wisdom that never changes: clean, sanitize, and disinfect. Most bacteria and viruses, if not killed, can multiply and travel throughout your facility.
This puts more people at risk of getting sick – which is what you don’t want. Once someone becomes infected with a cold, they are contagious for up to seven days while someone sick with the flu is contagious for up to two weeks.
To effectively kill germs, like influenza, rhinovirus, or other pathogens that cause sickness, you’ll need to regularly wipe surfaces with an EPA-registered disinfectant. Be sure to look for a product that lists kill claims on the label along with times.
Reviewing this information can ensure that you’re using a quality disinfectant that does what you need it to in a timeframe that works for your facility. Not sure how to choose a disinfectant for your business? Take a look at our guide, which lists the questions you should ask and factors you should consider before purchasing disinfectant wipes for your facility.
CLEAN THE AIR
One of the most challenging aspects of preventing cold and flu viruses is addressing their tendency to survive and spread even when air-bourne. When people sneeze, cough, talk, laugh, or simply breathe, they propel microscopic liquid droplets into the air.
When someone is carrying cold or flu viruses, those same water droplets can contaminate your entire facility. In fact, the flu can travel up to six feet away from an infected person through airborne travel, according to the Center for Disease Control. This makes the air quality in your facility very important.
Here’s how to prevent cold and flu from infecting people by keeping the air clean in your facility:
- If you don’t have air filters or air purifiers, invest in some to keep your facility safe.
- Make sure your air filters and ventilators are working properly seasonally.
- Clean and disinfect your air filtering system regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
AMP UP YOUR CLEANING FREQUENCY
Considering that more people will be getting sick this time of year, it’s wise to adjust accordingly and clean your facility more often to better manage the flow of viruses. During the cold-weather months, people have no choice but to spend more time indoors.
Below-freezing temperatures make spending time inside a necessity. Increased traffic means that surfaces will be getting touched more often. Since influenza and rhinovirus are highly contagious and can linger for hours, cleaning more often can help prevent them from spreading. You can do this by wiping objects twice a day instead of maybe once a day, or once every few days.
Here’s how to prevent cold and flu by amping up your cleaning frequency:
- Disinfect high-touch surfaces like door handles, reception desks, phones, and water dispensers and at least twice a day.
- Double your deep cleaning: If you currently deep clean once a week, bump it up to two for the cold and flu season.
- Provide disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers in high-traffic areas and encourage employees or guests to use them. Consider investing in stands and dispensers to make these items easily accessible.
PAY ATTENTION TO SMALL HIGH TOUCH SURFACES
You would think that larger surfaces and areas like tables, lobbies, and copiers have the most germs in facilities, but it’s actually the smaller surfaces that you need to worry about.
Office keyboards host a whopping 3,295 microbes per square inch, 48% of microwave door handles contain harmful bacteria, and office phones and headsets tested positive for an average of over 20,000 germs per square inch. Even an average computer mouse harbors around 1,700 germs per square inch, proving that small surfaces can cause big problems if they’re not cleaned properly and regularly.
Disinfect these often-overlooked small high-touch surfaces at least every other day to kill cold and flu germs, and others:
- Door knobs, sink handles, coffee pot handles, and refrigerator handles
- Cell phones, desk phones, and headsets
- Computer equipment like keyboards and mice
PUT UP SIGNS AND REMINDERS
There are many reasons why people don’t wash their hands, clean up behind themselves, or practice good hygiene. Bad habits, not being trained or educated on the importance of cleaning, being distracted or tired, or just plain old forgetting could be a few of them. To help remind customers and employees to keep it clean to prevent cold and flu from spreading, signs and posters can help.
Doing so can begin to create a culture of clean while helping to change behavior, promote cleanliness, and keep your facility safe. No matter how diligent you are with your cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting efforts, all it takes is one infected person sneezing or touching a surface to destroy the virtue of all of your hard work.
Help people to keep areas clean by posting signs and posters listing specific hygiene tips to help prevent the spread of germs – make your signs fun and visual to be noticed more.
Some helpful signs to keep your facility safe could include the following reminders:
- Encourage proper handwashing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
- Ask visitors and employees to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough and include statistics about how long viruses live in the air and how far they can travel.
- Remind guests and employees to stay home if they aren’t feeling well and list out the incubation period for the cold & flu viruses.
Overall, maintaining a clean, healthy, safe environment isn’t only a good business practice, it’s the right thing to do. With several record-breaking flu seasons occurring in the past nine years, more people are at risk of becoming very sick than ever before. But with these simple tips, you can prevent cold and flu viruses from infecting your customers and employees this year, next year, and beyond.