Tips to Prevent Germs from Spreading continued...
Practice good diaper hygiene. Be especially careful with dirty diapers now -- particularly if you have more than one kid wearing them. The changing table could be a spot where your kids exchange germs. So you could decide to use the changing table only for your sick toddler and change your healthy kid somewhere else. Or you could always lay a fresh blanket over the changing pad when putting a diaper on your healthy child.
Don’t allow sharing at meals. Mealtimes may usually be chaotic, with your kids regularly swapping silverware, cups, and food. For now, do what you can to prevent that.
Keep the bathroom hygienic. While germs generally don’t live on towels very long, they can live long enough to make a healthy kid sick. So launder them regularly. You may even want to switch to disposable paper towels for a week to prevent germs from infecting other family members. By the same token, consider replacing the bathroom water glass with disposable paper cups for a while. And get your child a new toothbrush after he's been sick.
Consider a quarantine? Obviously, you can’t imprison a sick toddler in his room until he’s better. But you can try to reduce the contact between your sick kid and your healthy one.
“You can try to separate your kids a bit,” says Altmann. “For instance, you might try to keep them playing in separate rooms more than usual.”
Still, it’s often not feasible and your kids may resist. If that’s the case, don’t worry, says Laura A. Jana, MD, a pediatrician and coauthor of Heading Home with Your Newborn and Food Fights. As long as your kids aren’t getting in each other’s faces -- and everyone’s washing their hands -- it shouldn’t be a big deal. “It’s fine to have your sick child sitting with his siblings in the same room watching a movie,” Jana tells WebMD.
How to Prevent Germs When a Parent Is Sick
What if you or your spouse is the sick one? How can you protect your kids?
- Focus on washing your hands. Hand washing is the key way to prevent germs from spreading. You should be doing it regularly anyway, but step it up when you’re sick. If you’re laid out on the couch, keep a container of antibacterial gel in your robe pocket and apply it before touching the kids.
- Dispose of your tissues. Before you had kids, you might have spent sick days on the couch with a pile of used tissues on the floor next to you. That’s not a good idea now. Throw your tissues directly into a trashcan nearby -- preferably one with a lid or one that’s placed off the floor.
- Keep breastfeeding. Some women worry about breastfeeding when they have a cold or stomach virus -- will it make the baby sick? But experts say that breastfeeding when you have a run-of-the-mill virus is a good idea; in fact, the antibodies you pass on might help protect your baby from getting sick.
- Avoid preparing food -- if you can. It’s not always an option, but if you can have your spouse, older child, or other family member take over the meal preparations and lunch packing for a few days, it’s a good idea. If you have to prepare meals, just be very careful to wash your hands before and during cooking.
- Take precautions, but don’t go overboard. Short of leaving the house for a week, how else can you reduce the odds that your kids will get your cold? You can try to make a few minor adjustments to prevent germs from spreading. For instance, you could kiss your kids on their heads rather than their cheeks for a few days. You could ask your spouse to do bedtime stories and baths for a few nights. But obviously, you can’t be so careful in your efforts to prevent germs from spreading that you feel like you’re shunning your kids.