This article is sponsored by Microban 24, an antibacterial product that protects surfaces from bacteria for 24 hours when used as directed. Help families at your school learn more about bacteria with the free Microban 24 24-Hour Science Experiment.

We sat down with two experts (and moms) to learn how families can protect themselves from bacteria. Deborah Gilboa, MD, is a family physician and parenting expert in Pittsburgh, Penn. Microbiologist Meghan May, PhD, is a professor and researcher at the University of New England College of Medicine in Biddeford, Maine.

Viruses are getting all the headlines these days because of COVID-19. Why is it important for families to be aware of bacteria, too?

May: If someone in your home becomes sick with a virus, you want to keep them from developing a bacterial infection, too. Bacteria can live quite harmlessly in the oral cavity or in the nasal cavity. If they drop down into the lungs, they’re going to start replicating and replicating and replicating. And then suddenly you can have bacterial pneumonia on top of your viral pneumonia.

That’s why disinfecting surfaces is critically important. If you disinfect, it means that you are lowering the amount of microbes on a surface to below a level where you could actually contract disease from them.

Gilboa: Some common childhood illnesses are caused by bacteria. We are seeing a decrease in pediatric infectious diseases so far this summer and this fall. This can likely be attributed to all of these measures we’re taking to protect kids from the virus that causes COVID-19, which are also protecting them from pneumoccous, strep and other bacterial infections.

Where do the bacteria come from?

Gilboa: Bacteria usually walks in the front door of our home in us, then we touch our eyes, noses or mouths, and then we touch surfaces.

What habits should parents teach their kids to help protect them from bacteria?

May: Just be in the habit of washing their hands. Not just after using the bathroom, but teaching them to wash their hands after a sneeze, after blowing their noses, before eating food or preparing food, before reaching their hands in the cracker box. We should all always be in the habit of washing our hands.

Most people don’t have time to disinfect every surface in their home every day. What areas should they focus on?

Gilboa: Most of the places at home where people catch bacterial infections are in the kitchen and the bathroom. If you’re trying to decrease the spread of infectious disease, that’s a great time to follow your mom’s rule about only eating in the kitchen or at the table. It’s easier to keep the kitchen clean than it is to be constantly cleaning your family room, the kids’ bedrooms, or other spaces where they might be eating.

May: Take a day or even an hour to be very mindful of everything that you are touching as you go about doing your normal household stuff, and the order in which you are touching these things. You can also follow one of your kids using the same approach. That is absolutely illuminating. It becomes very clear what needs to be frequently disinfected. If I had to give you a top three, it would be doorknobs, light switches, and (toilet) flush handles. With Microban 24, you can spray and walk away to protect surfaces from bacteria for 24 hours. This will cut down time spent sanitizing immensely!

What about personal electronics like cell phones, laptops, and video game controllers?

Gilboa: I really like the idea of using a wipe or spray. One of the things you can do to build a sense of responsibility and resilience in kids is to say, “wipe down or spray your game controller, and tell me when you’ve done it. That earns you a little extra screen time the next day.” Make it part of the ritual and reward it a little bit. For younger kids, of course, it’s always a good idea to let them tell you when they need to sanitize a surface, so you can avoid having them handle the product directly.

What precautions should families take with items that go back and forth between home and school?

Gilboa: If your kids pack lunch and use reusable containers, those should go straight into the sink or into the dishwasher. If your child has an instrument for band, that could stay at school, in their room, or in a designated area in your house. Backpacks and sports equipment could stay by your front door. To be extra careful, you can use an antibacterial sanitizer on many of these non-food-contact items—just make sure you select a product that initially kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses on hard and soft surfaces, like Microban 24.

If you have someone at home who’s immunocompromised or you’re worried about them at all, you can ask kids to change their clothes and wash their hands from the elbows down when they get home. For kids who are younger than 9 years old, parents should supervise them.

How else can kids help?

Gilboa: From my point of view, the good news is that everybody now has so much to do at home that people are more willing to make the kids do chores. Parents can have them practice with cleaning other parts of the house, like their bedroom or living room, while leaving the kitchen and the bathroom to the adults.

How do you talk to your kids about the importance of disinfecting without making them afraid or anxious?

Gilboa: Start with a few easy questions, just so you can enter the conversation with what they already know and correct any misinformation that they have learned. By simply listening to their children’s answers and learning what they already know, parents can understand how they’re feeling emotionally and show empathy for their feelings.

So many new products have come out for cleaning and disinfecting. How can people decide which ones are right for them?

May: There’s no single product that will get rid of disease-causing microbes, so you want to get into the habit of looking for a product that gives you the most benefits. Most disinfectants in the U.S. use similar active ingredients. You can easily look at their label to see what it is, how it works and what it kills.