It can be tough to stay well when you're in close quarters with someone battling coughs, fevers, and sniffles. Germs spread more easily in tight spaces and can cause colds and the flu to hang around your house for longer.
You can protect yourself, though, if you know the right and wrong ways to deal with someone at home who’s under the weather. Give these simple strategies a try.
Wash your hands often. And you have to do better than a quick rinse under the faucet. Rub your hands together with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget to wash between your fingers and under your nails. And remember to keep your hands away from your nose, mouth, and face.
Sanitize surfaces. Stopping the spread of germs means making sure you clean and disinfect hard surfaces such as countertops, tables, refrigerator handles, doorknobs, and faucets. And don't forget TV remotes, computers, laptops, and phones, too. Some germs can live in these spots for up to 24 hours, so make sure you clean with a disinfectant or disinfecting wipes, or quarter-cup of bleach mixed in 1 gallon of water.
Steer clear when you can. It can be tough to completely avoid a sick person in your house, especially if you're the one taking care of them. But sometimes the best thing you can do to stay well is to keep your distance. If you can, give the sick person their own room for sleeping and relaxing. Stock it with the items they’ll need, like tissues, a trash can, medicine, and bottles of water. And limit their guest list. The only person who should go in and out of the sick room is the person taking care of them.
Pamper your immune system. Your body does a remarkable job protecting you from illnesses most of the time, especially when you keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Keep eating lots of fruits and veggies, and make sure you get plenty of rest. Daily exercise, keeping stress in check, and limiting alcohol also help.
What about loading up on vitamin C or other products that claim to boost immunity? There’s not much evidence that they work. For example, vitamin C supplements might make a cold shorter and milder after you get one, but they can’t keep you from getting sick.
Get a flu shot. It’s one of the surest ways to stay well. The vaccine is different every year, so make sure yours is up to date.
If you're the one feeling under the weather:
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands.
- Wash your hands after you touch your mouth and nose, even with a tissue.
- Finish any medicine that your doctor prescribes.
- Try to steer clear of healthy people in your house, especially if someone has a weak immune system that makes them more likely to get sick.
- Don’t share food or drinks, cups, utensils, or towels with people who are sick.
- Don’t forget to throw out toothbrushes after everyone gets well. Keep a sick person’s toothbrush separate from the rest of your family’s. They can be a breeding ground for germs.
- Don’t let anyone share pillows and blankets with the sick person. They should have their own bedding in their own space in the house. Then, once they are better, wash everything they used.
- Don’t let sick and well children share toys. If it happens, make sure to disinfect the toys in between play times.