Home-Based Hygiene Tips Hygiene Suitable for stages: Pregnancy, 0 - 3 Months, 3 - 6 Months, 6 - 12 Months, 12 - 18 Months, 18 - 24 Months
Why do we worry so much about keeping our house clean, clutter-free, ventilated, with fresh sheets on the bed, and follow food safety advice? It's all so exhausting!
The core belief driving us is that these activities improve our indoor environment's quality and health-promoting qualities and remove anything that could make us or our babies sick. These ideas are worth exploring to work out a balanced approach - your environment should not be sterile, but it shouldn't be a breeding ground either.
What does it mean to be 'clean'?
According to the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, there are many ways infection can be transmitted in the home environment, and the role of hygiene is important for reducing the risk of infection.
Wet areas in the home (such as sinks, dishcloths and sponges and washing up brushes, showerheads, toilets, the refrigerator and the toothbrush) have greater populations of bacteria growing and multiplying. Bacteria and viruses can survive on surfaces for hours to months, with longer survival rates on porous surfaces such as fabrics.
It is thought that the primary transmission of viruses is through direct droplet exposure (from sneezing, blowing your nose, vomiting, diarrhea and faecal matter), exposure to contaminated surfaces, and by hand to surface contamination/transfer. Some bacterial populations don't cause harm to us, and our bodies can maintain a balance, however, if our immunity is compromised or we have high exposure beyond what our bodies can handle, this causes disease and infection.
During pregnancy can be a time where you are more susceptible to infections due to part of your immune system being dampened to support the pregnancy. This is a time to be more aware of the potential sources of infection, how to reduce your exposure and how to support your body's optimum immune function.
On the other hand, being in a sterile and over 'clean' environment is an unnatural situation for your body and can put you at risk over time of weakening your natural immunity. As always in nature, there has to be a balance and we need to acknowledge that our bodies need a balanced microbiome that we can only get from our natural environment. The book "Let Them Eat Dirt" by Dr B Brett Finlay & Dr Marie-Claire Arrieta makes a compelling argument for that balance.
Furthermore, the cleaning products that are commonly used and marketed to us, can be harmful to our health through inhalation or ingestion after getting on our hands or food. Getting into the habit of thinking critically about the chemicals and hazardous items in your house early will mean you won't have to suddenly change your habits once your baby becomes mobile. Anything potentially dangerous to children should be up high well out of reach or locked up.
Air quality plays a huge role in your health, and this can be affected by numerous factors including:
- Cleaning chemicals - chemical odours that you breathe in and can irritate your nose. It is very dangerous to mix cleaning products together as these can cause a toxic gas or irritant to be formed.
- Items in your home - the chemical composition of everyday items can 'off-gas' into your indoor air over time, and synthetic materials distribute microfibres into your indoor environment that can suspend in the air.
- Mould - this can release spores into the air which irritate airways.
- Ventilation - stagnant indoor air can accumulate pollutants.
- Temperature & humidity - extreme air temperatures and the water content in the air (humidity) affect breathing and the energy your body needs to maintain its normal body temperature of around 36-37°
The moist environment of the toilet can be a place where bacteria, viruses and fungus can thrive. If you can't get anyone else to clean your toilet, opt for a non-toxic cleaner where possible, minimise splatter when using the toilet brush, use toilet paper or a disposable cloth that you then throw away to clean the toilet seat and exterior of the bowl, and make sure the room is well ventilated.
Use gloves if you will be touching any cleaning products or contaminated areas and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after touching the toilet.
Indoor environments which contain dampness, poor ventilation or closed air systems and visible mould or mould odour have been associated with increased prevalence of respiratory infections and respiratory symptoms including asthma. These are not great places to be hanging out when you are pregnant.
The best way to prevent mould is to keep your household spaces as dry as possible. If you live in a damp area that doesn't get much sun, it may pay to invest in the following to help dry out the place:
- Extraction fans for wet areas and laundry - ensure these are kept clear of dust to keep them running optimally
- Air Conditioner which has a dry setting
- Dehumidifier (if you live in humid or coastal areas or have had excessive rain)
- Air filter (to clean the air including removing any air-borne mould spores) - such as the Australian Made Inovaair
- Window vacuum cleaner such as the Karcher, Black & Decker or Bosch branded units (great to remove condensation moisture from windows and to dry out the shower walls and glass after a shower)
When you smell that familiar 'musty' smell and do find mould, it can be difficult to get rid of the spores properly and it tends to grow back. Do a quick google search and you will find a LOT of opinions about how best to clean and get rid of mould. The general consensus is that bleach won't get rid of it, it just removes the colour of the mould so you can't see it. Often a vinegar or alcohol solution or clove oil solution is recommended, but these remedies have their limitations. It is worth doing what you can to keep the area dry and well ventilated to prevent favourable mould conditions and calling in experts when a major problem exists.
E. Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter are examples of infections that result from handling raw meat and the bacteria entering the body as a result of poor hand hygiene after handling the meat or mixing utensils or plates which had been exposed to raw meat with the prepared foods. Salmonella has also been linked with handling eggs, consuming undercooked eggs and contact with birds and reptiles.
Washing your hands with soap and water before preparing food or eating, after preparing raw meat and vegetable and at regular intervals during the day is a simple measure you can take towards preventing food poisoning.
Having kids is the ultimate test for your laundry skills. Cold water washes will just not do the job anymore and you will have to look critically at the washing powder, liquid or tablets you are using and possibly consider if the capacity of your washing machine will cope. As soon as you start to buy those cute baby clothes and blankets, your laundry will become busier. You may even be looking around for some laundry tips to make your life easier.
If you are considering using cloth nappies, there will be a learning curve as you learn about cleaning cloth nappies and can learn a lot from Facebook Groups. For heavily stained or contaminated clothes, the general recommendation is to wash at 60°C (or at least the 40°C cycle) to kill any germs and never leave clothes damp, dry them as soon as possible. A handy idea is to use a strucket - a strainer and bucket in one for soaking and rinsing nappies and clothes.
If clothes are left damp or wet for a period of time, it usually doesn't take long for them to start to smell or worse, get mouldy (especially if you live in a humid area). Keeping on top of the laundry can be challenging, but it's worth keeping the area dry and ventilated to avoid extra work for yourself including having to re-wash loads.
A drier can be a valuable tool when you have a lot of small clothes needing to be dried quickly, so could be something you consider purchasing when you are expecting or have small children. Otherwise, having a clothes airer that can be used undercover or inside in a ventilated space as needed in wet weather can also do the job. Drying your clothes outside and in the direct sun's UV light is the best option to properly dry out and kill bacterial populations and dust mites.
Once your clothes have dried outside, try shaking them out, folding them and sorting them into piles straight into the washing basket. All you need is a surface big enough to lay the clothes on to fold them such as a table or daybed. You can enjoy some time outside and the clothes are ready to go away before you go back inside.
The floor surfaces and maintenance of those floor surfaces play a role in moving around safely in your home and maintaining a healthy home environment. You will become acutely aware of your floor surfaces and what is in reach from ground level when your baby starts to move around and explore. Having a no shoes in the house rule where you take outside shoes off at the door (Japanese style) can help keep your floors cleaner for longer and reduce any chance of contaminants being brought into the house.
When you are pregnant, your ligaments are looser due to the hormone relaxin. Due to your increased risk of falls, it may be worthwhile to assess your floor surfaces to reduce trip and slip hazards. This may include:
|What to look for||What you can do|
|Slippery surfaces (e.g. floor tiles, bath surface, loose mats or rugs)||
Can you apply non-slip tape, stickers or paint?
Will a non-slip bath mat or rubber bath mat help?
Can you remove or replace the loose mats or rugs with non-slip options?
|Uneven surfaces which could be a trip hazard (e.g. doorway lips, broken flooring, curling/loose mats)||
Could you Install a threshold ramp or make one out of wood?
Can a contrasting colour paint or safety tape give you a visual reminder of the uneven edge?
Can the flooring be fixed or replaced?
Can you remove or replace the loose mats or rugs with non-slip options?
|Wet floor surfaces||
Can you encourage airflow through wet areas by opening a window or turning on a fan?
Do you need an absorbent mat in the kitchen?
Can you put absorbent mat/s in the bathroom?
|Loose electrical or data cables across walkways||
Do the cables need to be there? Can they be moved to another area or furniture rearranged?
Can you organise the cables?
When it comes to our homes, what we do to maintain hygiene, health and safety are all related. It is a balancing act to create a home environment that supports our bodies immune system to be strong, whilst not making us sick. Sometimes doing less is more, but it is worth knowing what areas are worth our efforts.
Please note: Above all, any information on this website aims to provide general ideas for informational and educational purposes only. We encourage users to investigate several information sources, including, where necessary, independent individualised medical advice before making any decisions that could affect you or your child’s health or wellbeing.
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