Killing Flu Germs: What Works?
Will disinfectants help prevent flu in your family?
Flu Prevention Tip: Clean Your Hands
If you’ve got the urge to clean away flu germs, the best place to start is
with your hands.
“Covering your mouth and washing your hands are the two most important ways
to stop the spread of the flu,” Perl tells WebMD.
What should you wash with? You might assume that antibacterial soap would be
preferable, but that’s the not the case. First of all, flu is caused by a
virus, not bacteria. Second, any type of soap will do.
“Time and thoroughness are what matters when it comes to washing your
hands,” says Schaffner. “Not the type of soap.” It’s the scrubbing that
counts. You’re not killing the virus with soap so much as dislodging it from
your skin and sending it down the sink drain.
The CDC recommends that you wash your hands for the length of time it takes
to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, about 15 to 20 seconds. Schaffner says
that while 30 seconds would be ideal, he admits that this isn’t always
“I’ve timed myself, and that can seem like a really long time,” Schaffner
says. While it’s still a good goal, at the very least make sure that
you’ve covered the surface of both hands and done it vigorously.
What about alcohol-based hand sanitizers? Flu experts are enthusiastic.
“I love the stuff,” Perl tells WebMD. She observes that one of its
main advantages is that you can use it on the go, far away from sink.
Just rub it in until it’s dry, she says, which usually takes just ten seconds
“Gels are just as effective as soap and water at killing influenza virus,”
says Schaffner. “We like both of them.”
Killing Flu Germs Around the Home and Office
Even if it may be an unlikely mode of transmission, it’s still
conceivable that you could pick up the flu bug from a surface. So
if you’d like, you can disinfect some of the areas in your home and office that
are most likely to harbor flu germs.