Cold and flu season is running rampant in Tennessee. This brings to mind a common question—what can you do to keep the rest of your family healthy when one member of your family is sick?
When someone in your family gets sick, it can seem inevitable that everyone else in the household will also get sick. After all, viral illnesses like the cold and flu are passed from person to person. When you’re in close quarters with others, as we are often during the winter, your risk of “catching” the illness increases.
When sickness invades your home, you’re definitely in close quarters with germs!
While you may want to run away and hide in another location until your family member is feeling better, that’s not a realistic solution. Fortunately, though, getting sick is not a certainty. There are some steps you can take within your household to help prevent illness from spreading.
William Turner, MD, internal medicine physician with West Tennessee Medical Group, has a few suggestions to help you navigate cold and flu season as a family.
4 Tips for Avoiding Illness During Cold and Flu Season
If someone in your family has the common cold or the flu, it may seem impossible to steer clear of the germs. But some proactive steps can help you limit your risk:
- Wash hands often. This one should be common sense, especially during cold and flu season, but it is vitally important when a family member is sick.
Wash your hands every time you come in contact with the sick family member, after using the restroom or changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food. And be sure you’re doing it the right way.
To effectively rid your hands of germs, you need to rub your hands together using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to make contact with all parts of the hands, including between the fingers and under the fingernails.
Because illness often spreads during cold and flu season when you touch contaminated hands to the face, try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth using unwashed hands.
- Steer clear as much as possible. We know—steering clear of someone within the same household doesn’t seem super likely, right? This is especially true if you’re the one providing care for the sick family member.
But it’s important to try to avoid contact as much as possible. Designate a space as the “sick” room, then work on keeping the person who’s sick inside the room and the family members who are not sick outside the room.
We know this isn’t always possible, so if you need to share space with someone who’s sick, just make sure you aren’t sharing objects. That includes everything from blankets and pillowcases to toys and utensils.
- Disinfect surfaces and objects. Speaking of objects, make sure you’re doing your due diligence when it comes to surfaces and objects within your home.
It’s gross to think about, but germs can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. That’s part of what makes cold and flu season so hard to handle!
To keep the germs from the sick family member from creeping up on those who are well, disinfect everything often. That includes things that come quickly to mind, like countertops, but also includes other commonly touched surfaces and objects in the home, such as doorknobs, light switches, phones, and computers.
Essentially, anything the person who’s sick touches should be disinfected. Use disinfecting wipes or spray to wipe everything down.
- Practice immune-boosting habits. This is best practice for everyone during cold and flu season—do everything you can to keep your immune system strong.
The best thing you can do for your immune system is to practice healthy lifestyle habits. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, aim for between seven and nine hours of quality sleep each night, and eat a healthy diet filled with fruits and veggies. Certain foods, like yogurt and green tea, may help give your immune system an added boost.
These habits are good for both the person who’s sick, since they’ll help him or her recover faster, as well as the family members who are trying to avoid getting sick.
Down and out with illness but don’t know if it’s the common cold or the flu? FIND A DOCTOR HERE.