Watching a morning show last week made me grab my laptop and take notes. It was full of news about germs - good and bad. The bad news is we just can't escape germs no matter how hard we try.

Watching a morning show last week made me grab my laptop and take notes. It was full of news about germs - good and bad. The bad news is we just can't escape germs no matter how hard we try.

The good news is we can wash our hands and stay well most of the time and so can our kids. Since 80 percent of infections are spread through hand contact, soap or bottle of hand sanitizer can go a long way to stave off winter bugs.

Germs don't just cause bacterial and viral infections, though. I have a son with asthma, so I'm no stranger to the germs that lurk in comfy mattresses. Mattresses and pillows can serve up a feeding frenzy for dust mites. Those nasty little critters wreak havoc on a child with asthma or other breathing difficulties.

What can you do? Place a plastic cover over bedding and pillows, but under sheets, to keep the dust mites contained. Of course, regularly washing bedding in hot water isn't a bad idea either. It will help kill lots of the dirty pests.

Unfortunately, dust mites aren't the only things in mattresses. I went to WebMD.com to learn more, and what I found made me shudder. Yikes! Mattresses hold all sorts of human secretions and excretions. Let your mind wander on that one. Suffice to say that bedding is one of the biggest causes of allergic rhinitis.

I would be willing to bet that you never thought about a load of wet laundry being a breeding ground for germs. It is. Anytime you move a load of underwear from the washer to the dryer, you may be getting E. coli on your hands. Believe it or not, there's about a gram of feces in every pair of dirty underwear. Sounds disgusting, but there are things you can do.

You can reduce the risk of contamination by simply running your washer at 150 degrees with a load of whites and bleach. That powerful bleach (not the color-safe type) will kill 99.9 percent of germs. Move your wet laundry into the dryer as fast as you can so that germs don't have the chance to multiply.

Everyone thinks of the bathroom (especially the toilet) as a place where most germs lurk, but that's not necessarily so. Kitchen sinks are dirtier than most bathrooms. Per inch, more than 500,000 bacteria can be found in the kitchen drain alone. Add the bacteria on your kitchen sponge, in the sink itself, and on the faucet, and you've got a virtual germ hotel.

How can you reduce the risk of infection to you and your family? Make sure to clean your kitchen counters and sink with an antibacterial product after you prepare food. We all know raw meat is loaded with bacteria, but don't forget that bacteria can be found in raw fruits and vegetables, too. After you prepare your food, simply wash your hands to reduce the chance of contamination.

Your vacuum cleaner is supposed to rid your house of dust and germs, right? Well, yes and no. Did you know that E. coli can be found on a vacuum's brushes? WebMD.com says there's not much you can do about your vacuum's brush, but you can vacuum the cleanest areas of your house first and the dirtiest last. Why? Because you'll be less likely to spread around bacteria.

Let's move out of the house and onto your child's playground at school. Playgrounds are loaded with germs and children who put their fingers into their mouths. Sounds like the flu waiting to happen, doesn't it? Remind your child to wash his hands after recess. When you take your child to the playground or park, carry alcohol wipes and clean everyone's hands before you leave.

But in true mom fashion, Mother Nature is simply awesome. The sun's ultraviolet light serves as an honest-to-goodness disinfectant. Most germs can't survive on a hot dry surface.

Try the ideas in this story to keep your family illness-free. Bottom line is this: Use common sense and simply do the best you can to keep germs at bay.