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Where’s the coronavirus hotspot in our home?

We’re out of lockdown again, although following tiered restrictions. But we mustn’t relax too much. Seeing more people again does make us all more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. Coronavirus cases are still high. Moreover, given extra freedom over Christmas, infection rates are likely to increase even more. It’s a good time, therefore, to think about the busiest part of the house. We mustn’t let our  bathrooms become coronavirus hotspots.

Yes, we’re being careful. We’re doing ‘hands, face, space’. We’re taking all the sensible precautions. But is it enough? The last thing we want is to infect people we share our homes with.

So now’s a good time to find our why our bathrooms can be a hotspot for the virus to linger and, more importantly, what we can do about it to keep well over the holiday period.

 

Why is the bathroom a coronavirus hotspot?

The convenience of an indoor bathroom is something we take for granted these days. All that running water and easy waste disposal! But they can be a danger zone for the spread of coronavirus.

What we get up to in there, and how we organise our personal items, could cause us to infect the people we live with. It’s a consideration that’s particularly important in multi-generational houses, house-shares, and when people stay over.

We should think of our household bathrooms as coronavirus hotspots. While we all do our best to keep them clean and hygienic, the smallest room in the house may be the one where we end up sharing more than just the space.

What are the problems?

Although coronavirus is mostly spread from person to person, it can be transmitted through contact with surfaces too. To keep ourselves and others safe, we need to think about what goes on in the bathroom.

  1. Insufficient ventilation means the air in the bathroom isn’t changing. The virus can settle down on surfaces in there.
  2. Flushing the toilet with the lid open introduces water droplets into the air contaminating surfaces up to 83 cm away. 
  3. Insufficient cleaning of frequently touched surfaces increases the likelihood of picking up infection. On ceramics, glass and metal, it can linger for as long as five days.
  4. Sharing personal items can spread  bacteria and viruses. A surprising 25% of people are willing to share their toothbrushes with someone else! Even letting toothbrush heads touch isn’t a good idea.  And if you’re a visitor to a house, it’s better not use toothpaste that’s come into contact with everyone else’s brush and they’ve all handled.

Try these quick and easy solutions

  1. Open the windows:  Create a draft to circulate the air and reduce the concentration of aerosols that may carry the virus. Everyone using the bathroom can do that. Leaving some time between occupants, 20 minutes if possible so airborne droplets settle, can help.
  2. Keep it clean: If the house is busy, everyone needs to understand clear expectations about cleaning the bathroom after they’ve used it. Leave disinfectant wipes out (although not very eco-friendly they’re safer if there are children around than a bottle of bleach) and tell people to use them to wipe down whatever they touch.
  3. Make sure personal items stay personal: It’s as simple as keeping our own toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and any other oral hygiene paraphernalia in our own room, not in the bathroom. This works especially well in a shared house, and in places with small bathrooms where there’s not room for everyone to have their own shelf-space. Just make sure that the brush head can air dry and remember to give everything a regular deep clean too. Some people even run them toothbrushes through the dishwasher.
  4. Put up signs: Why not write some gentle reminders for visitors? It may seem a bit odd, but a few small notes around the bathroom can be helpful.
  5. Hand washing: Frequent use of soap (or sanitiser) can be the difference that keeps everyone safe.

We’re sharing this information as we expect people will be getting together in homes over the holiday period. We sincerely hope you all stay well.

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