Someone in your house has the flu or a cold, and everyone else is scared of catching it. Try these six strategies to stay healthy.
Teach Good Coughing and Sneezing Habits
Colds and flu are spread mostly by direct contact. When a sick person coughs or sneezes, virus droplets can travel 6 feet or more.
If you're in close quarters, ask the sick person to:
- Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue and put the tissue in the trash right away.
- Cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow -- not their hand -- if they don't have a tissue. That means fewer germs get on their hands, which means they're less likely to spread their germs through touch.
Wash Your Hands Often
Washing your hands is the best way to keep from catching a cold. Other than getting a flu vaccine, it's the best way to prevent the flu, too.
Running your fingertips under water doesn't count. “The mechanics of the hand-washing make all the difference,” says Terri Remy, MD, medical director of Medical Associates at Beauregard in Alexandria, Va.
Sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice while you scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. The forceful rubbing is the most important part in getting rid of the germs. It should take about 20 seconds.
Other clean-hand tips:
- Wash your hands after handling any item the sick person may have touched, like a dish, cup, or towel.
- Don't touch your face unless you’ve just washed your hands.
Create a Sick Room
Some cold and flu viruses can live on skin and other things a sick person might touch -- doorknobs, remote controls, faucet handles -- for up to 8 hours. And it would be hard for a healthy person to avoid touching all of those things.
Set aside a room for whoever is sick, says Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, an infectious disease specialist. The sick person can stay there while getting better. Set up the room with everything they might need, like tissues, medicine, a thermometer, and a pitcher or cooler with drinks.
Ideally, just one person would take care of the sick one. Everyone else should stay out of the sick room. “No one goes in there to visit or watch TV," Hoven says. "That’s a very simple way to contain a virus.”