Weekly Feature

2018-02-08 / Editorials

Wash winter clothes to help prevent flu, cold

Laundry may seem like a tedious chore but is also one of the simplest ways to help prevent a cold or flu this season.

The illnesses are both more common in the winter months than in the summer. And part of the problem can be traced to your outer winter garments, which can harbor microbes, according to Dr. James F. Swiencicki, an infectious disease specialist at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.

“People tend to not wash things like winter coats or gloves much during the winter,” Swiencicki said. “This results in the buildup of viruses and bacteria that may lead to illness.”

According to Swiencicki, the most common germ-infested winter clothes that should definitely be washed frequently, include:

Gloves — Gloves keep our hands warm when the temperatures dip, but they also pick up everything bare hands do, and few people wash their gloves frequently enough. Gloves may carry bacteria, the cold virus and influenza virus especially if people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom and then put the gloves back on. He recommends not removing your gloves with your mouth and to remove them from back to front like health care workers do.

Scarves — While scarves protect faces and necks from the cold wind, they are also close to our noses and mouths. Scarves inadvertently serve as tissues for runny noses, soaking up this extra mucus and carrying around our germs to other people. The flu virus can live on clothing such as gloves and scarves for two or three days.

Coats: Be sure to empty your coat pockets of dirty tissues and gloves. When you’ve got a confined space filled with mucus and dirty gloves, you have a lot of microbes on clothes that can cultivate. When washing your coat, empty out the pockets and leave the pockets flipped inside out.

Boots: Wearing boots into the house carries bacteria, which can contaminate your surfaces and could even lead to illness. Clean the bottom of your boots with an antiseptic wipe at least once a week.

“Clothes, including accessories, need to be washed often and on a weekly basis to limit the amount of infectious germs on clothes,” Swiencicki said.

It’s important to try every possible way to prevent germs from spreading, as people can get sick multiple times throughout the winter months. It can be as easy as washing your clothes in warm water.

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