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The flu, pink eye, stomach bugs: When you know your child is sick, you keep him home. The problem is, kids can come in contact with germs and spread an infection before symptoms appear.

Here's what you can do to lower the chances of that happening.

Practice the Basics

To keep contagious diseases at bay, the first step is prevention.

  • Make sure you and your children eat right and are well-rested. That boosts the body's defenses.
  • Don't share items like cups, spoons, forks, straws, towels, pillows, or toothbrushes.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then toss the tissue. Or cough into your arm. Then wash your hands.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Teach your children to wash their hands with soap before eating. Look at hand washing as a survival skill.

Tips for Hand Washing

Wash them:

  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • After using the bathroom
  • After handling animals or their waste
  • After coughing or sneezing
  • More frequently if someone at home is sick

A quick rinse just isn’t enough. To wash well:

  1. Wet your hands and lather up with liquid or bar soap.
  2. Scrub all surfaces for 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. Rinse well, and dry your hands.
  4. No soap and water? Use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.

What to Disinfect and How


  • Phones
  • Stair railings
  • Countertops
  • Bathroom surfaces (toilet seats, handles, faucets)
  • Remote controls
  • Microwaves and refrigerator handles
  • Door handles
  • Light switches
  • Toys

To stop germs in their tracks, the CDC recommends virus-killing chlorine bleach. Add 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of warm water. Let the mixture to sit on surfaces for 10 minutes before rinsing.

When you disinfect, wear rubber gloves and a mask if the chemicals bother you, and open doors and windows.

Spot the Warning Signs of an Illness

The sooner you do that, the more likely you are to keep it from spreading.

Colds and coughs usually spread when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks. They might also have a runny nose and mild fever.