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Keeping Colds and Other Contagious Infections Contained

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In Times of Illness, Make Every Day a Wash Day

Containing illness is hard work. When you or a loved one is ill, it's advisable to wash towels, washcloths, pillows, and bedding daily. You may want to wash the stuffed animals that kids cuddle to remove germs. Be sure to separate toothbrushes when a family member is sick to avoid germs spreading in the bathroom.

Disinfect Germ Hotspots in Your Home

Germs are sneaky. Not only are they invisible, but viruses can lurk on surfaces for a few hours, and bacteria can remain quietly on surfaces for up to three days. To keep catchy infections contained, use a common disinfectant on the following household hotspots when someone in the family is ill:

  • Phones
  • Remote controls
  • Microwaves and refrigerator handles
  • Door handles
  • Toilet seats and handles
  • Faucets
  • Light switches
  • Computer keyboards/mouse
  • Video game handheld controls or joysticks
  • Toys

What's the best disinfectant? The CDC recommends inexpensive chlorine bleach, which is effective against viruses. Add one-fourth of a cup of bleach to one gallon of warm water and allow the mixture to sit on the hotspot surface for 10 minutes before rinsing. Whenever disinfecting surfaces, you should wear rubber gloves, ventilate the area, and, if you're sensitive to chemicals, wear a mask. Wash your hands after removing the rubber gloves.

Be Aware! Know What Bad Bugs Lurk Out There

Be aware of the following contagious diseases that adults can catch from kids (and vice versa), and call your doctor for medical advice.

Common cold. This is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Cold viruses enter your body through your nose or mouth and can be spread by touching someone who's sick or sharing common objects and then touching your nose or mouth. If you don't wash your hands frequently (or thoroughly) or if you touch your face frequently, you're at an increased risk of catching a cold. Colds last about a week. If symptoms continue, you may have a bacterial infection: call your doctor.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Cold Basics.

Acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is an infection of the airways that lead to the lungs. It is usually caused by a virus and spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Symptoms, which include a cough and mild fever, usually appear three to four days after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold or flu. Acute bronchitis can rarely lead to chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.

For more information, see WebMD's When a Cold Becomes Bronchitis.

Strep throat. Strep throat, a very common disease in children, is caused by airborne bacteria and is spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Symptoms include inflammation and pain in the throat and tonsils. The disease can be contagious starting three to five days prior to the appearance of symptoms. The contagious period lasts until 24 hours after a child starts an antibiotic.

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