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How to Stay Healthy When Your Family is Sick

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Updated May 16, 2014

Question: How to Stay Healthy When Your Family is Sick

This is a very common problem -- one person in the family gets sick and illness quickly spreads to the other family members. While it isn't always possible to completely avoid getting sick when you are living with someone who isn't feeling well, there are some things you can all do to minimize your chances.

Answer:

If You Are Not Sick Yet:

  • Wash your hands -- a lot. In addition to all the times you should wash them anyway, such as after you use the bathroom, you should also wash them whenever you touch things that sick family members have been touching. If you don't have soap and water available, use hand sanitizing gel or wipes.

  • Clean toys that sick children have been playing with thoroughly and frequently.

  • Do not share drinking cups or eating utensils, and make sure all dishes are cleaned with hot water and soap after use. (This is something you should be doing all the time because you never know what germs you could be sharing.)

  • If your partner or spouse is sick, it is probably best to sleep in separate rooms. If this is not an option, at least try to sleep facing in opposite directions and wash your sheets frequently in hot water.

  • Avoid kissing those who are sick. Colds are spread by droplet transmission. That basically means that they live in and are spread through your saliva and nasal secretions.

  • Get a flu shot every year, especially if you have young kids in the house.

  • Be aware that pretty much anything that is touched by a sick family member, such as the remote control, could potentially have germs on it. Some types of cold viruses can live on objects for as long as two hours, so thorough cleaning of anything that could be shared by family members is essential.

If You Are Already Sick:

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you don't have soap and water available, use hand sanitizing gel or wipes.

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, not your hands. This will help you minimize the chances that you will pass your germs on when touching objects around the house.

  • Throw your dirty tissues away immediately after using them. Germs can live in tissues for hours and leaving dirty tissues around will just make it easier for the germs to spread to other people. Not to mention that they could reinfect you every time you use or touch it.

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated.

  • Make sure your kids follow healthy habits also. Kids are a major source of illness because they are exposed to a lot when they are around other children. They will often bring an illness home from school or daycare, then spread it to other family members. Teaching children good health habits and how to wash their hands often will help cut down on their illnesses.

It can be very hard to remember all of these tips and put them into practice. There are also plenty of times that even your best efforts won't prevent all illnesses from spreading through the family. Fortunately, most colds are short-lived and don't typically cause any severe or lasting effects. If your cold symptoms seem especially severe or just keep hanging on, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure your cold hasn't turned into something more serious.

Source:

"Stopping Germs at Home, Work and School."Stop the Spread of Germs 01 Feb 04. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 06 Oct 07.

"An Ounce of Prevention Keeps the Germs Away." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 24 Oct 07.

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