Winter is quickly approaching, which means it's cold and flu season again. According to Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, the flu can survive up to eight hours on surfaces! To put it in perspective — your office phone has 25,000 germs per square inch while your toilet only has 49! It's a germy world out there, but Dr. Dolgoff recently talked with Parenting Squad about a few simple ways to keep our families healthy this winter and year-round.

Create Healthy Habits

Dr. Dolgoff explains that a lot goes into how healthy we are, including the amount of sleep and exercise we get and the amount of fruits and veggies we eat. We shouldn't wait until we get a cold to start loading up on vitamin C. Good health should be something we maintain and focus on throughout our lives. If something is important to us, we will make time for it. Start putting your family's health at the top of your priority list.

Practice Proper Germ Etiquette

Teach and practice proper germ etiquette in your family. This is an important and easy way to help stop the spread of germs. Sneeze and cough into your elbow rather than your hands to keep germs off common surfaces. In addition, Dr. Dolgoff says to know when to stay home. If you or your child is sick, don't go to work or school. You will be spreading germs to everyone around you, which is unfair. You also need to rest in order to get well faster.

If you go to work or to a party and someone else is sick, remember the three-foot rule. If you stay at least three feet away from a sick person and wash your hands often, you will significantly reduce your risk of catching the germs.

Disinfect Key Places

Keeping your home and work spaces clean is easier than you think. Sani-Surface wipes, recently featured on The Balancing Act, kill 99.99% of germs including e.coli, salmonella, MRSA, cold and flu in 15 seconds. They should be used on your doorknobs, your light switches, your faucets, your remote controls, your cabinet hardware, and anywhere you would like to be free of germs. Plus, these particular wipes are large enough to fit on a Swiffer mop, making them perfect for disinfecting your floors too.

I use the wipes at the end of the day on all common surfaces and immediately after guests leave our home. We also switch out our hand towels a few times a week so that they are always clean and germ free.

Know and Teach Proper Hand Washing

This is extremely important. According to the Center for Disease Control, up to 80% of all infectious diseases are transmitted by hand, and soap and water are still the best way to get our hands clean.

According to Dr. Dolgoff, you should first wet your hands, then add soap, lather for at least 15 seconds, and rinse thoroughly. If you are in a public place, you should dry your hands with a paper towel and then use that towel to turn off the water and open the door. Make it a habit for your family and make sure your children have easy access to your sinks with a step stool. You can make hand washing more fun for kids by teaching them to sing the ABCs or Happy Birthday while they wash. Adding fun products like the Pampers Kandoo line can help inspire independence.

Have a Backup Plan

Soap and water aren't always available when we need to wash our hands, so you should keep sanitizing wipes in your purse, in your car, on your desk and in your child's lunch box, locker, or school desk.

Alcohol-based wipes like Sani-Hands and Sani-Hands for Kids are perfect because they kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses in 15 second, something anti-bacterial products don't do. They are also free of fragrances and dyes, loaded with aloe and vitamin E, and made with Ultra Soft Tencel, a 100% renewable resource. In addition, using the wipes creates friction, so you don't just kill the germs — you remove dirt too. We keep a container in our car — it fits perfectly in the cup holder.

Heed the doctor's advice to stay healthy and you will likely see a reduction in your health care costs and your sick days. And join the Healthy Hands Across America movement to help spread health, not germs.

This Calls for Sani Giveaway!

What are the dirtiest things you find your kids touching? Does your child reach to touch insects in the park, play with the toilet bowl brush, pick up gum on the floor?

Share a picture or video of your kid in their most germ-ridden predicaments for a chance to win the following:

  • A Sani-Brand Spread Health Kit filled with goodies for cold and flu season
  • A season's worth of Sani-Brand Products
  • A FREE visit by a professional cleaning crew to sanitize your entire home for the holidays!

Share your photo or video by adding a link to your photo or video in a comment below, or by tweeting the link with the hashtag #thiscallsforSani, along with the tag @parentingsquad. (and please note if you are or are not comfortable with the photo/video being shared on Sani-Brand's online properties)

Entries must be received by Wednesday, November 16 to be considered.

And even if you're not selected as the winner of this giveaway, I have a special Sani-Brand coupon for you — click here to take advantage of the deal:

Disclosure: Sani provided us with samples of their products for review.