Sickness can spread fast and easy. Just a little brush with the stomach flu, chickenpox, the common cold, sore eyes and even the flu can get a person spending a couple of days in bed.
Sickness causing germs spread in many ways. You can breathe in germs when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. You can get germs by touching a surface an infected person has previously come in contact with. In order to keep your family healthy, you must prevent these germs from making your home their home too. Here are the things you might be doing that are helping them spread in your household.
1. Not hand washing often enough There’s a reason doctors stress the importance of hand washing so much. It really can stop you and your family members from getting sick. “Two of the most important things we’ve done in medicine are getting people vaccinated and getting them to wash their hands,” Robert W. Frenck Jr., MD, professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Disease told WebMD.
Imagine you’ve just come home. On your commute, you’ve accidentally gripped a handrail that had the common cold virus on it. When you neglect to wash your hands, everything you touch at home—doorknobs, light switches, handles, etc.—the virus has transferred on to as well.
When should you wash your hands? Immediately upon coming home, before and after touching food, before eating, after using the bathroom, after touching a pet, after touching garbage and before treating a wound. If you’re already sick, wash after coughing, blowing your nose and sneezing.
2. Neglecting to sanitize the things that need sanitizing It’s not easy to forget to clean the toilet or the sink. They get visibly icky, gross and even smelly, but these aren’t the only places germs can be found. In fact, the things we touch the most often are the germiest, including your own cell phone. And germs are hardy; they can live on surfaces for hours and even days. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, faucets, handrails, telephones, the TV remote, computer keyboards, counter surfaces and basically anywhere that’s touched a lot.
3. Not taking precautions when there’s a sick family member Filipinos are family-folk. We’re so close to our family members that we still can’t keep away from them even if they’re sick. But there isn’t a faster way to spread sickness in a household than by having a sick person parade around it. We’re not saying you should lock a sick person up in a room, just follow a few basic rules which basically boil down to: don’t share.
Don’t share food, towels and utensils with the sick person. As much as possible, don’t share bedrooms and bathrooms while they’re still sick. Also, don’t let the sick person prepare food. Tell them to cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw away that tissue immediately. As for the other members of the household, try to limit contact with the sick person, regularly wash your hands and try not to touch your face.
“On average, people touch their face two or three times a minute — but you should never touch your face with unwashed hands,” Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in the U.S. told Everyday Healthy. “Germs can get into your system through your eyes, nose, or mouth when you touch your face,” he explains.
4. Neglecting to teach the kids good habits Don’t just concentrate on you. Teach the kids to keep as germ-free as they can too. Start off with teaching them when and how to wash their hands. Your child should be scrubbing her hands with soap for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. It doesn’t matter what kind of soap you use, anti-bacterial or not. It’s the scrubbing that counts.
Teach them that it’s not hygienic to sneeze or cough into their hand and that the proper way is to use a tissue or, if one’s not immediately available, to sneeze or cough in the inside of their elbow. Teach them not to share things with sick people and that keeping away from them for the time being might be best.
5. Not taking good care of your health You’re so busy being the best parent you can be that you might be neglecting to take care of yourself. You don’t want to get sick. Getting sick wouldn’t just mean not being able to care for the kids but also upping the chances of getting them sick too because of you.
“Be conscious about getting enough sleep, adequate nutrition, staying hydrated, getting exercise,” Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, an infectious disease specialist, told WebMD. “Whatever [you] do to stay healthy, work a little harder at it.”
After all is said and done (and after getting flu vaccinations), getting sick once in a while is normal. Don't beat yourself up too much when a family member catches a cold. “Parents aren’t being bad parents if their kids get colds, or ear infections, or diarrhea,” says Frenck. “It just happens.”
Sources: October 29, 2015. "Keeping Catchy Infections Contained" (webmd.com) September 15, 2014. "Cold and Flu Season: Limit the Spread of Germs" (webmd.com) October 10, 2013. "8 Ways to Help Your Family Stay Healthy When Someone's Sick" (everydayhealth.com) November 16, 2011. "When Kids Are Sick: How to Prevent Germs from Spreading" (webmd.com)