There is a new battleground on the horizon, and it’s one that could easily affect everyone in your family: cold and flu season, not to mention we are always at risk for a new strain of Covid.
In particular this year, the flu is nothing to sneeze at. It sends more young children to the hospital than any other vaccine-preventable illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, the CDC reported that pediatric deaths during 2019-2020 reached a new high. The best way to prevent it and its complications is to get the flu vaccine for yourself and your family. It’s recommended for children as young as 6 months old. Of course, the vaccine’s effectiveness varies widely from season to season, so parents need to be vigilant when it comes to containing germs. (You can read more about the CDC's 2022-2023 flu season guidelines here which includes new vaccine guidelines for those over 65.)
Tips to Help Keep Your Car Germ-Free
While many of us are trained to wipe down frequently touched surfaces in our homes (doorknobs, light switches) whenever someone has the flu or a nasty cold, how often do those practices carry over to the family car, especially if you carpool?
Here are tips for keeping your car from becoming a petri dish:
What to Keep in the Car:
- Box of tissues: While it’s questionable as to whether your kids will actually use them, keeping tissues handy will hopefully encourage your children to use them when they sneeze. While you’re at it, keep a small trash bag in the back seat to gather the used tissues.
- Hand sanitizer: Keep this on hand for easy cleanups when kiddos didn’t have enough time to grab a tissue before sneezing. They also help adults clean up their hands after pumping gas. •
- Baby wipes: These are great for wiping down not only the kids, but also frequently touched surfaces like the steering wheel, radio buttons, door handles and window switches. Think twice before using bleach wipes in your car because the harsh chemicals could damage the interior.
Carting your sick children in the car is one thing, but what happens when your kids are part of a carpool? Well, if everyone isn’t careful, it’s easy for the kids to pass the same cold around. Here are some simple tips to help keep all the kids in your carpool a little healthier this winter:
If another parent in the carpool is dropping off your child at your house, make sure to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer inside your house’s front door to keep the germs at bay or, even better, train your kids to go straight to the bathroom or kitchen sink when they get home to wash their hands with soap.
Also, make sure to wipe down your child’s backpack straps (if he or she uses one) to help thwart the spread of germs.
While you may be ready to declare germ warfare on the bacteria the carpooling kids are bringing with them, realize that not all parents will want you to hose down their kids with sanitizer. Instead focus on wiping down the car’s frequently- touched surfaces after depositing the carpoolers at their homes and finally getting to your own.
There’s one last front to consider in the car: car seats. Cleaning a car seat requires a couple of steps:
- First, read the car seat’s manual before doing anything. Any missteps when cleaning it could make the car seat unsafe.
- To clean the car seat’s plastic shell, most manufacturers recommend using a damp cloth and mild soap. The seatbelt straps should be wiped down with a damp cloth, too. Some manufacturers allow the use of a mild soap to clean it, but check before cleaning.
- Don’t wash the seatbelt straps in the washing machine because it can affect its fiber strength and wash away fire retardants.
Car seats really get dirty and hold a lot of germs. Again, read the owner’s manual before washing or consider having it done by a detailing professional. Some manufacturers allow the covers to be machine-washed (and likely air-dried), while others prefer hand shampooing and air-drying.
Some final thoughts: don’t forget to wipe down your key and fob, and don’t forget the door handles inside and outside. Also, if you are prone to allergies, find out if your vehicle has a cabin air filter, it probably does. If it has one, most people should change those filters every 15,000 miles to keep the air as clean as possible in your vehicle.