Winter clothing can be a breeding ground for the flu

Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-01 17:27:13-05

This season's deadly flu epidemic has many of us taking extra steps to protect ourselves, including washing our hands and disinfecting surfaces.

But there is another breeding ground for germs that we come into contact with every day, and might not think twice about.

According to health officials, this is the worst flu season we have seen in years. It is spreading quickly, with no signs of slowing down.

"Really, you want to think about all the things that you touch all day that may be contaminated that you don't think about," said Dr. Lolita McDavid, Medical Director of Child Advocacy and Protection at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

One of those things is the winter gear we use to protect ourselves from the cold. Dr. McDavid says it could be exposing us to dangerous germs.

"Think about it," she said. "Your hat, your gloves, your coat. Anything that is constantly being in touch with other people, maybe you need to wash it a little bit more often."

According to Dr. McDavid, many of us are not putting them in the laundry enough.

People we spoke with said they wash their winter clothing as often as every two weeks, and as infrequently as never.

"Gloves? I would never wash my gloves, to be honest," remarked Sam Izzo, a student at Case Western Reserve University. 

Health experts say the flu virus can live on clothing, like your gloves, scarves and hats, for up to three days.

"I think you should probably wash your scarf and your gloves probably once a week," said Dr. McDavid. "And even your hat, because you think about all the places you touch and you may put it down places." 

Dr. McDavid says the number one thing you should do to protect yourself from the flu is get your flu shot. It's still not too late. She also says that you can boost your immune system by making sure you are getting plenty of rest and eating enough protein.