Our immune system has been fearfully and wonderfully made, and is incredibly robust, but minimising the amount of work it has to do is a great way to stay bug-free. As a former Microbiologist, I thought I'd share 5 easy ways to stay bug-free while doing ministry at home during the flu season. While there are standards for the kitchens of churches these days, there seems to be vague or non-existent advice when visitors call at the vicarage.
1) The Front Door: The Hand Shake When people enter or leave a house, it’s a natural enough thing to do, and I’m not suggesting not doing it. But preventing possible illness from a hand shake could be as simple as washing your hands afterwards. My favourite trick is a bottle of alcohol sanitiser (no running water needed!) that's stored near the front door (also it's worth keeping a bottle in the car after pastoral visits or church services).
2) The Bathroom: The Handy Hand Towel Bugs love nothing more than a warm, moist environment! If guests use the family bathroom, the best way to avoid sharing bugs from visitors is to not give the bugs somewhere to live. Avoid using solid soap bars and instead try a liquid soap with a pump dispenser and an obvious hand towel for guests so they'll be less likely to use whatever family towels are hanging about. Laundry note: this way you only have to wash one hand towel at the end of the day instead of all of them!
3) The Lounge Room: The Toy Story I was pleased to see that all toys had been removed from doctor's waiting rooms to prevent small people sharing bugs when they share toys with other children. The same idea could apply to children visiting the clergy home. Having a designated plastic box with easily cleanable toys (i.e plastic, non-porous toys, wipe-able books, no stuffed toys) could help make clean up easy.
4) The Living Room: The Paper Trail While handkerchiefs are handy, they can quickly build up bugs with continuous use. Disposable tissues, used only once then put straight in the bin are a great (and easy) way to make sure bugs aren't given a chance to stay.
5) The Kitchen: Put The Kettle On While anti-bacterial sprays are great, boiling water is a fantastic, cheap assistant in keeping your kitchen bug free. Even though bacteria is getting smarter, they are just as susceptible to plain old-fashioned heat and steam as they ever were. When you put the kettle on for a cuppa, simply pour some over the dish cloth or scrubber in the sink after you've finished using them to help contain bugs.
I hope this gives you some ideas for looking after you and your family when ministry happens at home.