Washing hands in the sink

Germs are all around us. But don’t panic, most of them are completely harmless. Some even do us good, like the bacteria in our gut that aid digestion. The important thing is to help protect our families from the germs that can make us unwell

How do germs spread?

Germs can be carried into the home in or on people and pets, or in contaminated food and water.

How they spread is partly down to us. Cleaning contaminated surfaces without proper hygiene (such as a cloth that isn’t cleaned regularly) can quickly spread these germs to other areas. Without knowing it, we can also pick up germs on our hands as we go about our day. They can then be spread to anything we touch until the next time we wash our hands.

Likewise, if a person is unwell, tiny droplets of moisture from their mouth can carry germs into the air when they cough, sneeze or even just breathe. These can contaminate any surface that they land on, or infect other people by being breathed in.

Helping break the chain of infection

One of the best ways to help stop the spread of germs is through good hygiene. Here are some ways to help:

  • Wash your hands regularly – especially before eating, before and after preparing food, and after coughing, sneezing or using the toilet or changing a nappy.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put any used tissues straight in the bin and wash your hands.
  • Handle and prepare food safely. Clean your hands and surfaces regularly, separate raw and cooked foods, cook food thoroughly and chill fresh & cooked foods to slow the growth of bacteria.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly – especially food contact surfaces and regularly touched surfaces such as taps, door handles and telephone keypads.

Clean or disinfect: What’s the difference?

Cleaning means removing dirt and some germs, usually with a detergent and a thorough rinse with hot running water. For many small items (such as cutlery and crockery), this is enough to make them suitable to use.

Disinfecting means killing most of the germs present. This is important for larger or fixed surfaces where thorough rinsing isn’t possible (such as work tops, toilets, sinks and telephone handsets). Regularly disinfecting the surfaces of your home is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of germs.

Remember, even in a clean home germs can still find their way in.