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Taking care of a sick toddler isn’t fun. But taking care of two sick children is worse. It means more misery and sleepless nights -- and for you, more missed days of work.

So short of ordering everyone into hazmat suits, what are you supposed to do the next time one of your kids comes home from daycare flushed and feverish? How can you protect the rest of the family and prevent germs from spreading?

“I know some parents who just give up,” says says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, a pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls:Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers. “They assume that once the virus is in the house, everyone’s going to get it. But there are some precautions that can help.”

Containing a virus isn’t easy -- especially within a family. But here’s some advice from pediatricians and experts on infectious disease on how to prevent germs from getting the rest of the family sick.

Tips to Prevent Germs from Spreading

Get your kids to wash their hands. Yes, this one should be obvious. But it really can’t be stressed enough: hand washing is a crucial way to prevent germs from spreading. About 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch.

 “Two of the most important things we’ve done in medicine are getting people vaccinated and getting them to wash their hands,” says Robert W. Frenck Jr., MD, professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Disease. 

When you have a sick toddler, germs can get absolutely everywhere. That means that your healthy child is bound to pick them up on his hands. But as long as he’s washing his hands regularly, the germs might not make it from his hands into his eyes or mouth. 

If kids are going to wash their hands, teach them to do it right. Experts recommend scrubbing hands for 20 seconds or so -- as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. The type of soap doesn’t matter -- to prevent germs, the regular stuff will work just as well as antibacterial soap.

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