When cold and flu season hits and someone in your household comes home feverish and achy, it can seem inevitable that everyone in the family will get sick. Taking simple precautions, however, can help prevent the illness from spreading to other family members. From increased washing of hands, to covering coughs and sneezes and disinfecting shared surfaces, there are efforts you can take to slow the spread of germs.
Simple Steps to Prevent Spreading Germs
- Cover Coughs and Sneezes
Coughing and sneezing is one way that many serious respiratory illnesses, including the flu, are spread. Simply covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or coughing and sneezing into your upper arm can slow the spread of germs. Coughing into your hands is not as effective and can even spread illness faster.
- Wash Hands Often
Thoroughly washing hands with soap and warm water after sneezing, coughing, or using a tissue is one of the most effective ways to prevent spreading germs. Experts recommend singing your “ABCs” or the “Happy Birthday” song twice to ensure you wash long enough. Washing and scrubbing should take about 20 seconds to effectively rinse away germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
- Sanitize your Home
Disinfecting shared and frequently touched surfaces around your home is a good idea when someone is sick. Cleaning door handles, light switches, toilet flush levers, etc. with cleaners that are intended to kill viruses (disinfectants containing bleach, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptics with iodine, and alcohol) can help prevent the spread of illness. Practice caution when using stronger chemicals around small children. Ensure areas are well ventilated when you clean and store products securely out of reach after use.
- Create a “Sick Space”
Creating a safe haven where a sick family member can rest and heal is a smart way to contain germs. Keeping sick individuals to one confined space will help to slow the spread of a virus. Be sure the room is comfortably stocked with plenty of tissues, hand sanitizer, a separate trashcan, etc. If a sick room isn’t doable, try to keep reasonable distance between sick and healthy family members in order to prevent spreading the flu.
- Stay Home
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever passes. While many may think it okay to return to work or send children back to school 24 hours after the start of symptoms, it is in fact best to wait until enough time has passed after a fever, ensuring the virus is effectively dormant.
Flu vaccinations are recommended to significantly reduce the chances you or a family member will catch or spread the virus during influenza season. If you or a family member does get sick, take extra precautions to avoid spreading the virus.
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