When your child or another family member has a cold or cough, there are extremely important steps in addition to frequent hand washing that can lower the risk of spreading the infection to others. Some experts call these strategies respiratory hygiene, and they can be very effective if followed carefully. For example, to keep your sick child from blowing secretions into the air, where they can land on other people or on toys and other objects:
- Encourage her to cough or sneeze into a tissue or, if a tissue isn’t available, onto her sleeve.
- Discourage your child from covering her mouth with her hands while coughing or sneezing because this will leave germs on the hands that can be spread by touching other people or objects. Most often, germs are spread by the hands, not through the air.
- Throw away tissues immediately after each use, putting them in a nearby wastebasket or other container.
- Once your child is old enough, teach her how to blow her nose into a tissue.
- Don’t allow your child to share pacifiers, drinking cups, eating utensils, towels, or toothbrushes whether she is sick.
Clean & Disinfect
Housecleaning may not be the most enjoyable activity in your day. If you spend a few minutes killing germs, especially those in the kitchen and bathroom, it can go a long way toward keeping your child healthy.
After you’ve prepared a meal, wash the kitchen counters with hot, soapy water and disinfect them using a household bleach solution or other disinfectant. Infectious bacteria can thrive in foods like uncooked beef and chicken. In the bathroom, use the same cleaning and disinfecting routine on the toilet, sink, and other surfaces. This is especially important when a family member is sick with an infectious disease, particularly one that causes diarrhea. Also, frequently clean the area where you change diapers, including the changing table. (Be sure you keep the bleach and all cleaning products out of the reach of infants and young children.) Avoid changing diapers in areas where food is being prepared or consumed.
Some germs can survive and thrive for hours unless you take steps to wipe them away. After using soap and disinfectant, dry the cleaned surfaces with paper towels or a clean cloth. After you clean up, be sure to wash your own hands.
Handle Food Safely
Food can become contaminated with bacteria and other germs that can cause stomach pain, vomiting, and worse. To limit problems:
- Make sure your hands are washed and the kitchen surfaces are clean before and after preparing meals.
- Clean your cutting board or kitchen surface after preparing raw meats for cooking and clean before using the surface to prepare any food that is not to be cooked such as salads, fruits, or vegetables.
- Cook ground meat all the way through.
- Wash raw vegetables and fruit thoroughly before eating.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs.
- Cook frozen food right after it’s defrosted.
- Clean utensils frequently during food preparation, washing them after they’re used on raw foods and before using them again on cooked foods.
- When it comes to leftovers, store them properly and get them into the refrigerator or freezer right away to prevent germ growth. Don’t leave perishable items out for more than a couple hours.
Collectively, Americans are sick more than 4 billion days a year—and many of those sick days can be prevented. If you follow the guidelines, you will go a long way toward helping your child, as well as the rest of your household, have fewer infections; fewer missed days of child care, school, and work; less frequent visits to the doctor; and lower medicine costs.