The exception? A mild illness like a cold or seasonal flu.
Of course I hate it when my kids are sick. But the truth is, they kind of enjoy being sick, as long as it’s mild. They get to skip school and lie on the couch watching movies all day while I tuck their blankets back around them and cook chicken soup. But when I’m sick? No such luck. Most of the time, I have to keep going no matter how I feel, and unlike my kids — who usually recover in 24 hours — it could take me weeks to feel better.
But the only thing worse than me getting sick is me getting sick and giving it to the kids. Which is why, especially during flu season, our family makes good hygiene a priority. It’s impossible to avoid exposure to germs, but we do everything we can to avoid catching it. Here are some of our best stay-well tips for a sniffle-free season.
How are Germs Spread?
The most common winter bugs are Norovirus and seasonal flu. Both are viruses, and they spread in similar ways. Flu germs are released into the air when an infected person sneezes, but they can also be spread by touch, either directly or via a surface. Norovirus is spread through close contact, eating food prepared by an infected person, or touching contaminated surfaces or object.
How Can I Avoid Catching the Flu?
The best way to stay well is to practice good hygiene. Some basic tips include:
- Frequently wash hands (especially after going to the toilet and before handling food)
- Teach your children to regularly wash hands
- Regularly disinfect surfaces in your home, including toilets, door handles, and light switches
- Don’t share towels between family members
- Regularly wash clothes in and bedding in hot water
- Use hand sanitizers for you and your kids; carry some in your bag for when you’re out
The flu incubation period can be as long as four days, so it’s best to follow these tips all the time — not just when someone is sick. You can’t know whether one of your kids has been exposed to a virus or infection, because symptoms won’t be apparent right away.
What if One of Us Gets Sick?
If someone in your family is already sick, be even more vigilant about good hygiene. In addition, try “quarantining” the sick person. If possible, have her sleep in a room alone and make sure other family members stay away (except for you, of course, Mom! — somebody’s gotta tuck in the blankets and bring the chicken soup). Wash clothes and bedding in very hot water, and teach kids not to reuse tissues. And if you do catch it, put someone else in charge of dinner (even if that means takeout) till you’ve recovered.
A sick person should get plenty of rest and lots of fluids (keep in mind that dehydration is more dangerous for kids and can occur more rapidly than in adults). It’s usually best for sick kids to stay at home while suffering from a contagious illness, not only to speed recovery, but to reduce the spread of germs. Rest can also boost your immune system and help you resist infection if you’re exposed, so put non-essential tasks like cleaning on hold as much as possible while you’re nursing a sick child. Opt for extra sleep instead.
If, despite all these precautions, you do catch the dreaded flu, don’t panic. Call your doctor. Call a babysitter. Turn on a movie. And reheat some chicken soup for yourself.
More Flu-Beating Advice:
- 7 Tricks for Staying Healthy During Flu Season
- 9 Cold & Flu Myths — Debunked
- Sneaky Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy During the School Year