When your child comes down with a cold or the flu, it can have a domino effect on everyone under your roof. So it’s important to provide proper care while maintaining your distance and doing your best to amp up your own immune system — and protect the rest of the people in your family. So what’s the best strategy? “Germs get into the body through three main sites: the mouth, nose, and eyes,” said Dr. Richard Honaker, chief medical officer of Your Doctors Online. “If you can avoid touching those three sites, you greatly reduce the chance of getting sick.” Sometimes that’s easier said than done when dealing with children, especially little ones. These doctor-approved strategies will help you stay germ-free, so you can focus on nursing your kiddo back to health.
Tips to Avoid Catching Your Kid’s Cold
Wash your hands frequently.
You’ve probably told your children to wash their hands before meals, after playing outside, when they get home from school, and when they go to the bathroom — and to do so even more when it’s cold and flu season. Well, now you have to really practice what you preach. Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands, which is key because you may be touching your eyes, nose, and mouth without realizing it, making yourself vulnerable to sickness. Wash your hands every time you’re in contact with your sick child — just don’t go overboard. “You’re washing your hands too much if the skin starts cracking from dryness,” Honaker said.
Stock up on germ-killing cleansers.
Not saying you have to clean and disinfect every last thing in your home all day every day when your child is sick. But you should stay on top of surfaces in common areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. Cleaning removes germs while disinfecting kills them, and both together decreases the spread of infection. Honaker recommends keeping all counter surfaces and tabletops free from sneezes, coughs, and saliva by immediately cleaning any visible soils. You should also be wiping down and disinfecting daily other germy hotspots like light switches and different door handles, as well as objects that are touched often like tablets and remotes, to prevent germs from spreading, especially while your child is sick. To cut down on additional germ spreading, teach (and practice) good coughing and sneezing etiquette. Show littles how to cover their mouths and noses properly using their hands or upper shirt sleeves.
Amp up your immune system.
In order to give your littles the attention they need to recover, you’re going to have to keep up your own immunity, strength, and energy levels. “Sleep and exercise are important but not preventive,” Honaker said. “However, sleep deprivation can reduce immunity.” Get plenty of rest, and try to move your body a little, whether it’s a walk around the block or an exercise class at a gym.
Even with all the preparation in the world, sometimes you just can't avoid catching a cold that's going around your house. As far as diet goes, “just eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and stay well hydrated,” Honaker said. “Fluids will help keep mucus thin, and this makes the mucus less favorable for the germs.”
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Listen to your body.
Know the signs of contagiousness, and if you or your child exhibits them, stay home and let yourself heal. “The only reason to take off work or school is if you have a fever, muscle aches, and moderate to severe fatigue — these indicate contagiousness,” Honaker said. “Rest helps, but the main thing is ‘tincture of time.’”