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Household Surfaces continued...

How often to disinfect? That depends on how often the area is trafficked, Shu tells WebMD. "It would be nice to do it once a day if you can. If somebody is sick you definitely want to step it up a little bit."

For toys that are used by one child, neither disinfecting nor frequent cleaning is necessary. "A good idea is to clean it if there is visible junk in it, such as dirt, blood mucus -- that kind of thing." Use warm, soapy water to clean toy surfaces.

Out and About

Keeping a clean car is more a personal preference that a health issue, Shu says. If you are the only one who drives your car, disinfecting surfaces such as steering wheels and gear shifts is not necessary. But the surfaces you encounter when you get out of the car are another story.

Often touched surfaces such as shopping cart handles or ATM key pads are teeming with germs. If disinfectant wipes are available at shopping places, use them to wipe cart handles or other surfaces before you or your children touch them. Bring your own wipes along for germy surfaces.

It's not possible to clean or disinfect every surface you have contact with. In fact, keeping hands clean is the first line of defense for keeping infection-causing germs from reaching your mouth, nose, or eyes, where they can make you sick.

"Get kids in the routine of washing their hands any time they see something dirty on them, anytime they come in from outdoors, before eating, and after using the bathroom," Shu says. And keep antibacterial hand wipes with you to clean kids' hands -- and yours -- when you can't use soap and water. "You do what you can, but you can't avoid every single germ. If you can get those habits going that's a great start."

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