Disease & Illness

6 Mistakes That May Leave You Vulnerable To The Stomach Flu

Here's what you can do to protect yourself!

Most people would do anything in their power to avoid the stomach flu. But while you may think you’re taking the necessary precautions to avoid contracting the nasty virus, you may be making some common mistakes that can lead you to get sick. The stomach flu is highly contagious, so it’s imperative that you take measures to avoid it.

Here are six mistakes that may make you more likely to get the stomach flu — and tips for what you can do instead to protect yourself as much as possible.

1. You think hand sanitizer is a substitute for washing your hands

Although hand sanitizer is convenient, it’s not a substitute for good old soap and water when it comes to norovirus, which is responsible for the vast majority of stomach bugs in the United States. When you suds up, make sure you wash vigorously for 20 seconds to kill germs.

washing hands photo
Flickr | aka Kath

2. You’re not using bleach

Again, while Clorox and Lysol wipes may be convenient, you’re going to need a bleach-based cleaning agent to wipe out norovirus. The CDC recommends a solution that contains between 5 tablespoons and 1.5 cups of household bleach per gallon of water for your cleaning solution.

bleach photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

3. You soldier on.

It can be tempting to work through illness. But when it comes to norovirus, you’re not doing anyone any favors by being out and about while you’re sick. You’re all but guaranteeing its spread.

“The best option for staying healthy, of course, is to not be exposed to norovirus in the first place,” Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Research Foundation, explained on the foundation website. “But if you or a loved one gets sick, isolation and common sense are the best ways to stop the spread.”

stomach flu photo
Flickr | Bazule

4. You wash the dishes by hand.

Though you may think that hand-washing dishes allows you to scrub in a way that can’t be replicated by a dishwasher, you’d likely burn your hands if you made the water as hot as it should be to kill germs.

“You cannot get the water hot enough if you wash by hand,” Allison Aiello, who studies how viruses spread at the University of Michigan, told NBC News. Running the dishes in a dishwasher using hot water is a better bet. If that’s not an option, consider investing in a pair of rubber gloves that can help you withstand the heat.


5. You’re missing crucial areas to disinfect.

Even after you’ve scoured the kitchen and bathroom with bleach, your work is not done. It’s also important that you disinfect those less obvious — but high-traffic — areas and objects in your home, such as light switches, doorknobs and remote controls. Again, using bleach to disinfect these areas is imperative.

Man cleaning phone.

6. You’re not washing clothes and linens in hot water.

The norovirus is spread via fecal matter, and studies have shown that fecal matter can spread even within ordinary laundry loads. If anyone in your household is sick, the virus could be lurking on clothing, towels, sheets or other materials. The only way to destroy the virus on fabrics is to wash laundry in very hot water and bleach.