It can seem to be a never-ending cycle. First one person in your home gets sick with a cold or flu — perhaps your school-aged child, partner or roommate. Then you start feeling that slight tickle at the back of your throat or mild ache near your temples, and you sense that you’re next in line for the illness.
During the cold and flu season, staying healthy when others around you are not sometimes feels like an impossible goal.
According to Dr. James Lin, a board-certified internal medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, there are steps you can take to avoid being the next victim of whatever virus may be taking up residence in your home. These are his top five tips for staying healthy when others are sick:
- Stock up
Before heading to the store, make sure you have appropriate over-the-counter medications, healthy foods your loved one can eat, tissues, hand sanitizer, juices and sports drinks to ensure everyone stays hydrated. Don’t forget to add disinfecting cleaning products to your shopping list.
- Love from afar
Try to encourage the sufferer to stay in their bedroom. Make sure they have things to read and watch (if they are able), and that they get lots of rest. Keep the bedside table well-stocked with fluids throughout the day, tissues and a trash can to dispose of the used ones. If it’s not too cold outside, crack a window to let fresh air in the house. Keeping your under-the-weather housemate semi-secluded minimizes the spread of sickness.
- Keep it clean
Disinfect the things touched by sick hands. This includes door and refrigerator handles; kitchen and bathroom countertops and sink handles; cabinet and drawer pulls; computer and TV components; remotes; and telephones. Wash towels, sheets, blankets and pillowcases often during the illness and before anyone else uses them.
- Care, but don’t share
Sharing may be caring, but not when it’s a bug. Make sure that anything an unwell person has used is washed before someone else takes a turn. This includes towels, pillows, utensils, cups and toys. You might want to consider throwing out things that are easily replaced, such as pens, pencils, crayons and bars of soap. It also wouldn’t hurt to toss and replace everyone’s toothbrush.
- Wash your hands!
Make sure everyone in the household — both sick and well — is washing their hands often with soap and water, and refraining from touching their eyes, noses and mouths. Also, remind your sick housemate to cough and sneeze into their elbow.
“Don’t forget to take care of yourself when taking care of someone who is sick,” says Dr. Lin. “Make sure you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, practice good hygiene, exercise and get enough sleep — all things that can boost your immune system and help keep you well.”