Health & Wellness Articles

Keeping Your Family Safe from the Cold & Flu

18 Germ-Fighting Dos & Don'ts

Parents do everything possible to limit germs in the home when a new baby joins the family. But during cold and flu season, it's equally important to do the same thing to protect children and adults of all ages. Remember when you asked everyone who wanted to hold your baby to wash their hands first? Now is the time to bring back that practice for anyone who is going to handle food or touch surfaces in your home!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the flu vaccine as the single best way to prevent the seasonal flu from invading your home. Keeping germs from being passed around and reducing the germs that are brought into the home can also help. Knowing and following some simple tips can keep your family healthy all year long.
Practice the Basics
While it might not be possible to prevent all illnesses, keeping some basic health principles in mind and putting them into practice can limit the passage of germs around the house.
  • Encourage everyone in your home to avoid close contact with anyone who is showing cold or flu symptoms. Consider splitting up children (or adults) sharing a bed or room for a few days to limit who is breathing on whom during sleep. Be sure to wash the linens when the illness has passed before regular sleeping arrangements are resumed.
  • Make it a practice not to share drinking glasses, utensils or food, including adults finishing the food or drinks of children. Eliminate the community cup in the bathroom. Provide each person with one of their own or consider small, disposable cups. Remember to wash cups regularly, especially after an illness.
  • Cover your cough with a tissue or your elbow to reduce germs in the air that others in the home might breathe. Older adults who learned to cover their mouth with a hand might need to learn the practice of using an elbow.
  • Limit touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible to keep germs from getting into the body through mucous membranes.
  • Wash hands with soap and water. This might seem basic, but it is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many illnesses. Remember to wash hands before, during and after preparing food and before eating meals or snacks, as well as before and after tending to someone who is sick. Wash hands every time after using the toilet, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, touching garbage, petting animals or changing a diaper.
  • Change shared hand towels in the home regularly. If someone in the home is ill and washing their hands frequently, provide a specific hand towel for them and replace it daily or consider using disposable paper towels for a short time.
  • After someone has recovered from illness, replace their toothbrush, and make sure to house it away from the rest of the family's brushes during their illness.  
  • Wash shared throws or blankets frequently, especially during an illness outbreak.
  • Don’t use hand sanitizers in place of soap and water when they are available as hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
  • Clean and disinfect common household surfaces and objects where germs can easily be transmitted from one member of the household to another. Use antibacterial wipes, solutions or homemade disinfectants to regularly wipe down commonly touched surfaces from door knobs to light switches. Don’t forget about phones, handrails, remote controls and game controllers, ear buds and headphones, the refrigerator and microwave door handles, toilet and faucet handles, computer keyboards and tablet screens.
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About The Author

Tanya Jolliffe Tanya Jolliffe
Tanya earned a bachelor's degree in dietetics and nutrition and has more than 20 years of experience in nutrition counseling and education. She is a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. See all of Tanya's articles.

Member Comments

  • This is overkill. This is actually a good way to ruin your immune system. Some things, like washing hands, sneezing into your sleeve, and putting the sick person in their own area is good, but most of these are overkill. - 9/24/2015 5:34:42 PM
  • Changing your toothbrush after you have been ill & washing your hands are paramount after being ill. Prevention is much better though~ - 11/12/2014 6:14:09 AM
  • Good information! I cringe when people walk into my house with shoes. My family never, ever wears outdoor footwear in the house. We use house slippers or socks. - 10/29/2014 7:48:37 AM
  • I had to chuckle on the "no shoes in the house" rule as that is so Canadian! So all you south of the border, just think on how you'd be if you were in a Canadian home where we take off our shoes at the door - and it'll become habit in no time. :) - 10/28/2014 1:03:58 PM

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