“Are we all going to get it?” is one of the most common questions I get after diagnosing an illness in a member of a family.
The short answer is, “Probably.” I don’t mean to sound flippant about it, but the truth is that most young children are good at spreading their germs (they don’t cover coughs or wash hands enough) and most moms and dads can’t keep up with disinfecting surfaces. If you manage to contain an illness to one family member, you are to be congratulated. Here are a few simple things you can do to increase that likelihood:
- Cover your cough. Teach kids to cough into the crease of their elbows. If they cough into their hands and then touch everything, it’s not much better than spewing it into the air.
- Wash hands with soap. Anytime you blow your nose, wash your hands. It is also a good habit to wash your hands when you first get home from an outing where you are exposed to the public and unclean surfaces. Also, wash hands before eating
- Hand sanitizer. I love this stuff. You can use it just about anywhere, before eating in public places, after playing with others’ toys, etc.
- Keep your distance. There is wisdom in keeping the sick ones apart from the healthy ones. If you can limit your sick child to one or two rooms, you’ll decrease the risk of spread to everyone else.
- Disinfect surfaces frequently. Disinfecting wipes are great for quick wipe downs of door handles, light switches, phones, remote controls, and other frequently infected surfaces. Some viruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours.
- Don’t touch your face. If your sick child coughs in your face, gives you a big kiss, or generally goos you, you are pretty much a goner. However, as you are out and about (touching infected surfaces in the world) and helping your sick child, try not to touch your face. A quick nose itch of a hand with infectious particles on it may be all it takes to catch the bug.
- Eat healthy. Give your body a fighting chance with good nutrition. Some vitamin deficiencies can make you more susceptible to illness (e.g., vitamin D).
- Get enough sleep. When your body is sleep deprived your immune defenses are down. You must get adequate sleep for your white blood cells (which are important in fighting infection) to work properly.
- Vaccinate. I am a big believer in vaccinations. Some causes of infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and pertussis (whooping cough) can be decreased or completely prevented by vaccinations. An annual flu shot is also a good idea.