Flu season has yet to hit its peak, even with thousands of cases turning up in emergency rooms across the country. Sanitization practices such as disinfecting household surfaces and smart hand hygiene are essential in avoiding illness. But if you’ve already been sick, do you need to throw away your toothbrush.
“In most cases, the answer is no,” said Bhavik Desai, DMD, section director of oral medicine and associate professor in the Department of Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University.
“While flu viruses may survive on toothbrushes for up to three days after first exposure, you don’t have to throw out your toothbrush just because you’ve been sick,” Desai said.
As long as they’re your own germs, Desai said, you don’t have to worry. You won’t make yourself sick again if you use the same toothbrush after you’ve recovered. If you share your toothbrush with someone else, however, you could spread the illness. In fact, Desai says that people should never share their toothbrush under any circumstances.
Meanwhile, dry mouth and bad taste are common for people who have the flu, and they can be worsened by medications used to manage flu symptoms. Desai advises people with the flu to hydrate often. Also, alcohol-based mouthwashes should be avoided in favor of moisturizing and lubricating over-the-counter mouthwash products. Sugar-free mints or gum can address dry mouth and bad taste as well.
Oral hygiene should be maintained by regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing at all times as well, even during the flu, Desai said. When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is your main priority, including your mouth. Sometimes, just brushing your teeth when you aren’t feeling well is enough to make you feel better, at least for a short while.
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