The Healthy Home Checklist

Healthy Home ChecklistHealthy Home ChecklistHere's everything you need to do to keep your family healthy this fall, from attacking germs wherever they lurk to stocking your medicine cabinet.

1. Allergy-Proof Your Home

Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing in Columbia, Md., offers these tips for reducing dust mites, mold spores, and other common indoor allergens:

  • Vacuum frequently, ideally with a machine that has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulateair) filter. Since carpets and rugs collect dust more easily, bare floors are recommended for people with severe allergies.
  • Control dust mites by using zippered allergen-impermeable covers on mattresses, box springs, and pillows.
  • Wash comforters and pillows in hot water at least once every three months. Sheets, blankets, and pillow cases should be washed in hot water once a week. Avoid down feathers.
  • Keep your home dry and well ventilated (less than 50% relative humidity) by using fans in the bathroom and kitchen to help eliminate stale air.
  • Repair all moisture leaks quickly to avoid attracting cockroaches and other pests. Eliminating leaks and other sources of dampness will also prevent mold from building up.

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2. Stock Your Medicine Cabinet

Paul L. Doering, M.S., of the University of Florida College of Pharmacy in Gainesville, recommends that every household have the following items on hand:

  • An over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer for headaches, menstrual cramps, and other minor aches and pains. (Always check expiration dates.)
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream, for soothing itchy rashes and other slight skin irritations.
  • Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning cuts, scrapes, and other small skin wounds. (Always wash thoroughly with soap and water first.)
  • Triple antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection.
  • Bandages in various shapes and sizes for minor wounds.
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine. Even if you don't use it often, keep it on hand for when you really need it.

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3 Safeguard Your Food

There are more than 75 million cases of food-borne illnesses in the U.S. every year. Keep your family from getting sick with these tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Always use the same cutting board for raw vegetables and another for meat, poultry, and fish. Wash the cutting board thoroughly with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Use an appliance thermometer to be sure your refrigerator is consistently 40˚F or below.
  • Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods such as meat and poultry. Colour is not a reliable indicator of doneness.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Instead, do so in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave.

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4. Beware These Hidden Dangers

Unsafe Decks- An estimated 20 million home decks in the U.S. are in danger of collapsing because they were built incorrectly, haven't been properly maintained, or are beyond their life span of 10 to 15 years. Warning signs include wobbly stairs, cracked or rotted wood, loose metal connectors, and rusty nails and screws.

  • Scalding Water- Make sure your water heater is set to no higher than 120˚F. Children and older adults are particularly at risk for scald burns because their skin is thinner.
  • Candles- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and use sturdy candle holders. Never leave a lit candle unattended.
  • Clothes Dryer Fires- Failure to clean the dryer is a leading cause of home blazes. Clean out the lint filter before or after every load of laundry.

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5. Stage a Full-Force Attack against Germs

Germs can lurk anywhere, from TV remotes to microwave panels. The reason? These surfaces get handled more frequently. You need a two-pronged approach-c leaning and disinfecting:

An all-purpose cleaner will remove grime from surfaces, but for added insurance, follow with a disinfectant (such as bleach), which destroys germs. Clean surfaces thoroughly at least once a week or more often if someone is sick.

  • Children's high chairs
  • Showers and tubs
  • Microwave panels
  • TV remote

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