8 Habits to Avoid Spreading Cold and Flu Germs

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“Help!! I cannot afford to catch my child’s cold!!”

The first sign of a sneeze, cough or drippy nose can strike fear in the hearts of moms and dads everywhere. When a kid gets sick, often the whole family gets sick, so what are some simple, preventative measures we can take that will give the rest of us a fighting chance of staying healthy as well as protect friends and classmates from the dreaded germs? How can we as parents, care for a sick child without ending up sniffling and sneezing right along with them?

“Preventing transmission, especially with small children in the house, is not easy,” admits Larry Anderson, MD, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. One of the biggest challenges for a healthy mom, he says, is that a lot of transmission happens early in the illness, well before symptoms cue you in that you have sick kids.

But don’t give up hope! It’s certainly not inevitable that the caregiver and other family members will get sick. According to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine, an analysis of 216 households in which one person had the flu showed that another person in the house came down with it just 21 percent of the time. Illness spreading to more than one other person in the house was even less common, occurring only 6 percent of the time.

What can we do to reduce the risk of spreading germs? Here are 8 simple steps to keeping everyone in your house healthy:

#1. Wash you hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!!

Your mother was right! It is the single most effective way to keep germs from spreading according to pediatrician Jonathan Gold, MD, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics and human development at Michigan State University in Lansing. Wash your hands regularly, for 30 seconds each time. A regular bar of soap will do just fine; it’s doesn’t have to be antibacterial.

#2. Safe sneezing and coughing.

Teach your children from as young as possible to sneeze or cough into the inside of their arm or into a tissue. This is the second most effective practice in keeping germs from spreading. Throw away used tissues immediately and wash your hands!

#3. Hand sanitizers.

If you don’t have access to soap and water this is the next best thing. Keep some alcohol-based sanitizers in your purse, in your car, your child’s lunchbox etc. Offer it freely to anyone who is sharing your space!

#4. Wipe surfaces frequently with bleach-based sprays.

Counter tops, bathroom sinks, doorknobs, computer keyboards and telephones are all breeding grounds for germs.

#5. Don’t Share.

Teach your kids that although you love when they share their things, some things should never be shared. Toothbrushes, drinking glasses, silverware, and anything else that goes near their eyes, nose or mouth are not to be shared.

#6. Flu-shots.

There is no vaccination against colds, but there is for flu, and there is no question that flu season is a regular occurrence. Don’t wait until it’s too late and regret it!

#7. Isolate the infirmed!

If at all possible confine the ill child to one room while he/she is sick. This will limit the spread of germs to the rest of the family. There is no reason the germs need to be spread throughout the house and onto every chair and surface.

#8. Care for the caregiver!

It’s so easy to put yourself last on the list of priorities when you’re caring for a sick family member on top of all of your usual responsibilities. But you won’t be able to do any of it if you don’t take care of YOU! Make a point of getting plenty of sleep and eating well. Your family needs you!

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