When someone in our household gets the flu, of course, our first thought is how to care for them and make them comfortable. However, the next thought is typical: “Please, oh please, don’t let the rest of us get it too.”
Too often the flu runs rampant through households, picking off one family member after the other until you’re all sick. So is there anything you can do to prevent the flu from spreading in your home? While it’s not easy when you live in close quarters with someone, there are some steps you can take to at least up your odds of stopping the flu in its tracks.
1. Get your flu shots
No, it’s not perfect, but it’s your best shot (no pun intended) against getting the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting the flu by about 50-60 percent. Not only that but if you do get the flu, it may make your symptoms milder.
2. Wash those hands
Handwashing is always important, but when the flu is in the air, it’s even more important. Make sure small children know how to soap up their hands and scrub for at least 20 seconds (hint: have them sing “Happy Birthday” or the ABC’s). Also, make sure that when drying hands you use paper towels that can be thrown away or cloth towels that can be laundered after each use as any lingering germs can be passed onto others.
Clean all surfaces the infected person may have touched—from doorknobs to countertops, toys, the television remote and the toilet seat. You can use either a household cleaner that’s designed to kill germs or you can make your own disinfectant by mixing one-half cup of bleach in one gallon of hot water.
4. Cover sneezes and coughs
It can be difficult for small children to remember, but covering up your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough can help prevent the spread of the flu. Using tissues that are thrown into the trash immediately after use is best, but coughing into your elbow can also help.
As much as possible, keep the person who’s sick away from the rest of the family. This may mean someone is sleeping on the couch if beds are shared, but it’s important to interact with the sick person as little as possible to prevent the spread of germs.
6. Keep your hands away from your face
No matter how hard you work to try to eliminate the germs, some will still linger, so it’s important that you try not to touch your face, especially with unwashed hands. Flu germs can travel through your mouth, nose, and eyes. Studies show that people touch their face an average of 3.3-3.6 times per hour, so it can be a challenge, but it’s one worth attempting.
While not foolproof, taking these precautions at the first sign of flu symptoms is the best step toward keeping the rest of your family healthy.