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3 Surprising Sources of Sickness Around the House

January 19, 2011

Even in the cleanest homes, germs happen. But some areas around the house could be harboring health hazards you haven’t considered.

Taking some simple steps can help protect you and your family. Here are a few common items worth your attention:

The Offender: Your Kitchen Sponge

It soaks up spills, scrubs counter tops and scours pots. The more a sponge is used, the dirtier it becomes. Keep in mind that as it picks up germs, it can also spread them around. This can result in a food borne illness.

What you can do:

• Replace your sponge often.

• After using a sponge, heat it in the microwave for one minute. Another option is to run it through your dishwasher. These two methods have been found to kill more than 99 percent of the bacteria, yeast and mold on sponges.

The Offender: Your Cutting Board

It’s a key kitchen tool. But if you use cutting boards without care, you could spread germs to the foods you eat.

For example, when preparing dinner, you might unwrap a package of raw chicken on a cutting board. Later, you might use the same board to slice tomatoes for a salad. Bacteria from the uncooked chicken could spread from the board to the tomatoes. It’s called cross-contamination — and it can make you sick.

What you can do:

• Keep one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use another for fruits, vegetables and other foods.

• Wash cutting boards with hot water and soap. Do this before and after preparing each food.

• Use a solid wood or nonporous plastic, acrylic or glass cutting board.

The Offender: Your Pillow

You probably think of it as a comfort zone. But, here’s a not-so-comforting thought: Your pillow could be hosting thousands of dust mites.

Dust mites and their waste can cause allergic reactions and asthma symptoms in some people. These pesky pests are invisible to the naked eye

— and every home has them. Dust mites feed on shed human skin particles.  And they multiply easily in warm, humid places.

What you can do:

• Cover your pillow and your mattress with allergen-proof covers.

• Wash bedding weekly in hot water.

• Try to keep indoor humidity levels between 30 percent and 50 percent. Using vent fans in bathrooms and the kitchen may help. A dehumidifier may be useful, as well.

Source: United Healthcare

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