Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on May 29, 2012

Sources

Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, MACP, FRCP. Centers for Disease Control. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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Video Transcript

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer: See the numbers go up? It's cold and flu season. Most adults get sick once or twice. But for small kids, it can be a lot worse. Studies show your child could have fever, cough, sniffles and more… as many as six to ten times a year. Hello, I'm Dr. Sandra Fyhofer. So how do you keep everyone else healthy when a family member is sick? Here's what I tell my patients: my prescription for staying well.

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer (cont.): Wash your hands. You've heard it before, I'll say it again. Wash your hands every chance you get. Wash 'em as for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. It's the single most effective way to keep from getting sick from any type of germ. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol based hand gel.

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer (cont.): Don't touch your nose or face. Most viruses are passed by contact with mucus fluids, so keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes. That's important all during cold and flu season, but especially important if you're around someone who's sick.

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer (cont.): Confine the illness. Do your best to isolate the person. Put them in a different bed or bedroom. If that's not possible and you have to share a bed, sleep with your back to them. The same goes for a sick child who crawls into bed with mommy and daddy. That's when it really gets tough.

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer (cont.): Sanitize common areas. Unfortunately, rhinovirus -- the most common type of cold virus -- can live on things like telephones, stair railings and door handles, for several hours, maybe even a few days. That's why hands are not the only things to keep clean. Wipe down all high touch areas with disinfectant. In the kitchen, that means places like silverware drawers, sink faucets, trashcans, doorknobs, as well as refrigerator and cupboard handles,. In the bathroom, be sure to clean shower doors, tubs, and toilet flushers. Clean the toilet twice a week with disinfectant and close the lid before flushing. …You don't want germs from your toilet to wind up on your toothbrush!

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer (cont.): Speaking of toothbrushes, change them often— at least every three months—and immediately after any sickness, you don't want to re-infect yourself. Everyone in the family should have their own color coded toothbrushes—be sure to store them at least an inch apart to avoid cross contamination. Don't share. Obviously you don't want to eat or drink after someone who's sick. Consider using color coded drinking glasses or disposable cups . After all, it's easy to mistake the dirty dishes for clean ones. Color-coding is also a good idea for hand and bath towels, so family members don't spread germs. And be sure to wash all towels, and sheets more often during cold and flu season and use hot water.

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer (cont.): Jumpstart your immune system. Regular exercise, good nutritious meals, and plenty of sleep won't kill germs. But your immune system will stand a stronger chance of fighting them off if you're living healthy. You might consider adding a multivitamin. And last, but not least, check with your doctor about getting a flu shot. Flu is serious business. It kills over 36,000 Americans each year. For WebMD, I'm Dr. Sandra Fryhofer.