American’s are in the beginning stages of the typical cold and flu season that usually peaks around February. Once a family member or friend brings the flu virus or a cold into your house, it’s difficult to stop it from spreading. With colds often comes missed school, work, scheduled activities and sleep - a chain reaction we'd all like to avoid.
Cold viruses grow mainly in the nose where they can multiply and be easily spread by sneezing or touching the nose and then touching just about anything else.
You know it’s probably coming… so, what’s a parent to do? There are several steps you can take to minimize the spreading of viruses.
1. Get a yearly flu vaccine. Everyone in the family, except for children under 6 months old, should be vaccinated. The flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season. The vaccine can protect you from getting sick from these three viruses or it can make your illness milder if you get a different flu virus.
2. Hand washing. One of the most effective ways to prevent colds from spreading is for every family member to wash their hands often and correctly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch.
A quick rinse isn’t going to remove a virus from your hands. Hands need to be scrubbed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. When you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer. Keep a bottle, or sanitizer wipes in your car and purse.
3. Keep household surfaces clean. Doorknobs, light switches, computer keyboards, remote controls, countertops – anything that is touched my multiple people will shelter viruses. Wipe these surfaces often with soap and water or a disinfectant solution.
4. Throw away used tissues. Used tissues can contaminate any surface where they are left.
5. Use paper towels. During the cold season it’s best to use paper towels for drying your hands when you can. Another option is to assign a towel and washcloth to each family member and a fresh one for guests. Wash towels frequently. Germs can live for several hours on cloth.
6. Use disposable cups if a family member is infected. Disposable cups can help prevent the spread of germs, especially if your children tend to drink from each other’s cups. Make sure they know that sharing, in this instance, isn’t a good thing.
7. Cover your nose and mouth. If you’re coughing and sneezing, cover your nose and mouth but don’t use your hands, unless you can clean them right away. The first choice should be a tissue – if that’s not available, use the crook of your elbow. If you notice that someone is coughing or sneezing- stay back. Teach your child to cover their nose or mouth also. Put a small package of tissues in their school backpack so they’ll have some ready to use if needed.
7. Take care of yourself. Parents tend to let them selves get run down if their child has a cold, and then become more susceptible to getting a worse cold. Eat healthy foods and get enough rest. I know it’s easier said than done, but your health is important too.
Sometimes even your best attempts won’t prevent a cold from spreading but don’t beat yourself up. Often a cold virus is launched before anyone knows they are truly sick.
There’s not a 100% cold spreading prevention program - aside from quarantining every family member and we all know that’s not going to happen. But by practicing the preventative measures above you have a much better chance of preventing the spread of the flu or a cold to each other.