Bacteria can be both helpful and harmful to people. Many bacteria are harmless and needed. They coat our skin, which helps protect us, and live in our intestines to help fend off bad bacteria. For example, it is the bacteria in our stomachs that help us digest food. But when we come into contact with harmful bacteria and they take over, that’s when we become sick.
Potentially harmful bacteria can be found virtually anywhere in the home, although any warm and moist place will grow bacteria. The two most prevalent places are the kitchen and bathroom.
In the kitchen, bacteria can be found in high concentrations around the sink and drain, around the wastebasket, on the counter or table, cutting board, and on the dishtowels and sponges. Older wooden spoons can also harbor bacteria because often times they are darkened and soft from use or cracked, the perfect place for bacteria to grow. In the bathroom, toilets, showers, sinks, and even toothbrushes harbor bacteria.
While bacteria can never be eradicated completely, cleaning hard surfaces with a bleach water or vinegar water solution is recommended. For items like tooth brushes, sponges, and wooden spoons, replace frequently and wash with hot soapy water in between. Be conscious of softer items such as the couch, and use disinfectant sprays or a simple vinegar and water spray bottle. Wash pillows, comforters, and towels frequently in hot water. Don’t forget about car seats which can have spills and crumbs accumulate over time, and remotes, which are touched often with dirty hands.
The most common bacteria found in the home are E. coli and Salmonella. The absolute best prevention of spreading these bacteria is to wash your hands frequently for about twenty to thirty seconds with warm soapy water. Keep hand sanitizer on hand if there is not a place to wash.
Elderly and younger populations see the most negative impact from bacteria as well as anyone with a compromised immune system due to illness, some drug therapies, and even stress. Please seek the guidance of your physician if you think you may have a bacterial infection. Often times they can be confused with viral infections in which treatment is symptomatic differing from the treatment for a bacterial infection in which an antibiotic is prescribed.
Source: Kim Costello, MSM BSN RN, is a Private Duty Clinical Manager at Holland Hospital. She is also an MSM, MSN and RN. She works within the Home Care Department. Photo provided by Kim Costello