Coronavirus, COVID-19, is going to change every possible aspect of our lives, much of it beyond our control. However, there are practical things we can do in our homes to limit the risks of cross-contamination or infection – starting in our own bathrooms.
These changes in our habits are being forced upon us by coronavirus, but they are actually good changes to make for the long term. It’s often the case that if one member of a household gets a bug, the rest of the family go down with it too. The bathroom is very possibly the culprit.
Our bathrooms are the places we go to get clean, yet they are probably the part of the home that houses the most germs. According to a US study, 60% of toothbrushes stored in communal bathrooms tested positive for faecal coliform bacteria – that’s poo to you and me – and if you share a bathroom it’s probably someone else’s. Research into COVID-19 suggests that the virus is spread not only by cough droplets but also lives on in faecal matter, sprayed into the air from the toilet.
According to infection control expert, Professor Laurie Walsh, from the University of Queensland Australia, faecal-oral contamination could be responsible for up to 30% of the current cases of COVID-19. Handwashing, combined with good bathroom hygiene to reduce the aerosol effect on surfaces from toilet flushing, could really make a difference.
As we all try to minimise the spread of infection between family members, here is BioMin’s guide to some things you can do in your own bathroom to minimise the chance of spreading not only coronavirus but any infectious conditions among your family or household.
Close the lid when you flush the toilet. This prevents the particles flying out and landing on toothbrushes, towels and other surfaces.
Although the virus is easily transmitted, it is also quite straightforward to kill with warm water and soap. COVID-19 is described as an ‘envelope virus’ with a fatty outer coating. This is dissolved by soap, and the virus within starts to be inactivated at 27°C. The advice is to wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds as soon as you enter the bathroom.
Each member of the household should use their own towel, including hand towels, and these should be laundered frequently at 60°C. Perhaps colour code each family member’s towels, or mark them in some way so everyone knows which is theirs.
Give each family member their own tube of toothpaste – this will prevent microbes being transferred either by touching the tube or from the tube to the toothbrush. Keep this in their own wash bags.
Toothbrushes and teeth cleaning
Your mouth is the gateway to your body and, as such, a healthy mouth is essential to help you resist any kind of viral or bacterial infection. A clean toothbrush is key to this. See our tips below…
- Share toothbrushes.
- Keep your toothbrushes close together in the same toothmug.
- Wash your hands BEFORE you clean your teeth.
- Use an antimicrobial mouthwash before you brush. This reduces the level of bacteria in your mouth before you start so there will be less to transfer to the toothbrush.
- Rinse the toothbrush afterwards to get rid of toothpaste and debris, and get it as dry as you can in the air – do not use a toothbrush cover or container as these prevent the bristles from drying and make it easier for germs to grow.
- Have a separate washbag for each family member to store their own toothbrush, shaving kit and other toiletries. This will protect the contents from airborne droplets and keep them separate.
- Alternatively, store your toothbrush standing vertically but well away from the toilet
- Consider keeping your toothbrushes outside the bathroom
- Prepare a washbag and overnight bag for any family member who needs to go into hospital
- Some people like to use a toothbrush sanitiser
- If you are a parent teaching a child to clean their teeth, stand beside them and supervise them while they try to learn to do this themselves
- Replace your toothbrush after illness or infection
Dental practices may only be able to see emergency cases for a while, so it’s more important than ever to maintain good oral hygiene and take care of your teeth. Keep brushing and flossing regularly, and use mouthwash as required.
Disinfect your bathroom surfaces daily, using cleaning products which, are both bactericidal and virucidal. Bear in mind some bathroom spray products can cause respiratory problems.
Irrespective of the current coronavirus crisis, these practical steps are good habits to develop, and train your family to adopt, and will help us all to do our own bit to protect our families from this and any future infections.
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