How to Keep Your Family Healthy When One Kid Is Sick

child sneezing
All parents have had this happen: One of your children gets sick, and then the whole family starts falling like dominoes. Stuffy, feverish, sneezing dominoes. How can you prevent it?


Unfortunately, the odds are not in your favor. Even a pediatrician in a WebMD article says that when one of her kids get sick, the other ones do too about three-quarters of the time. But there are some things you can do to minimize the impact on your family and keep you from becoming one miserable, sniffly crew every time someone brings home a cold.

The most important piece of advice is also the most familiar, but it's a cliche for a reason:

Wash your hands. This suggestion applies to every illness imaginable, from colds to MRSA. Wash them frequently, before and after handling food, after you use the bathroom, after you play with a pet, even after coming in the house from being out and about. Help your children do the same. Does this sound a little OCD? Why, yes, it does. But keeping germs off hands is the best way to stop those germs from being transmitted to the nose, eyes, and mouth where they can really cause havoc. You can even wash babies' little paws, and you should teach your kids to do it as soon as they can stand on a stool at the sink. Use a little song to show them what the proper duration is (20 seconds, or enough time to get through "Happy Birthday" twice -- the ABC song works too). No need to use anti-bacterial soap; the regular stuff works just as well and doesn't contribute to the development of drug-resistant bacteria. The foaming stuff is fun for kids and might make them more eager to wash.

Disinfect, a lot. I was never a germaphobe until I had kids; now I must have my disinfecting wipes. No need to get crazy, though -- you can't follow your sick kids around swabbing down everything they touch, even if you wanted to. Just swipe doorknobs, kitchen counters, phones, computer keyboards, and game consoles. And make sure their plates, glasses, and silverware are well-washed in hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher on a hot cycle.

Practice good diaper hygiene. If you have two or more in diapers and one is sick (especially if the sickie has a gastro-intestinal thing with diarrhea and vomiting), only change the sick kid in one easily cleaned place like a changing table or mat and swab it with a disinfecting wipe between uses; change your healthy kid somewhere else. And get those yucky diapers or puked-on clothes out of reach of other kids immediately and into the diaper pail or the wash. If you can't set up two changing locations, at least lay a clean blanket over the changing pad when you're changing your healthy child.

Toss those tissues. Do not do the little old lady thing and keep a used tissue inside your sweater sleeve in case you need it again or let your kids just toss theirs wherever. Get them into the trash immediately. Yes, even the anti-microbial kind.

Watch your smooches. When my daughter was a baby and kept getting colds, I asked her pediatricians how I could keep her healthy. His surprising advice? "Don't kiss her." I ignored him because, hello, who could resist that baby? I'm not made of stone here. But still, kissing your little one on the head instead of the cheek or lips can keep her from getting what you have if you're sick ... and anyone who's been the recipient of a slobbery baby kiss can see the benefits in keeping you well, too. 

Take preventive measures. Data on the effectiveness of things like Airborne and Emergen-C are mixed, but it's unlikely to hurt you (except in the wallet) to take them during cold and flu season -- and might just help, if only for the placebo effect. And certainly, getting enough sleep, fluids, and proper nutrition will make you feel better and make you less of a target for whatever is tearing its way through your child's school.

How do you keep your family healthy when one kid gets sick?


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sick kid? keep the rest of the family healthy

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