9 Ways to Keep Your Kid's Illness From Spreading to the Whole Family

9 Ways to Keep Your Kid's Illness From Spreading to the Whole Family

When your kids are sick, try these tips to protect yourself and the rest of the family.


By: Laurie Sue Brockway

When your children are sick, they need your complete attention and tender loving care, yet nothing spreads faster than the catchy virus or illness that has followed them home from school, day care, or the playground.

Many moms find they are susceptible to the same common childhood maladies their kids have, like colds, strep throat, gastrointestinal viruses, and the seasonal flu. This makes them vulnerable to the one thing worse than taking care of sick kids – taking care of sick kids while being sick, too.

So what steps can you take to avoid catching bugs from your little ones?

We spoke to experts Shari Weisenfeld, MD, of ASAP Urgent Care in Connecticut and Barb Dehn, RN, MS, NP. FAANP, NCMP, a women's health nurse practitioner who is also known as Nurse Barb. Here are their top nine tips on how to protect yourself and the rest of the family.

1. Wash your hands constantly. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you have a sniffling baby in your arms or a first-grader throwing up nonstop, you may need a reminder. “The best way for moms to keep from getting sick when their kids are sick is diligent hand washing immediately after wiping noses, changing diapers, feeding, or any tending to sick kids,” says Dr. Weisenfeld. Have your kids wash their hands a lot, too.

2. Shower and wash your hair. You need to wash everything. “Especially with little ones around who love to snuggle up on mom’s shoulders, nuzzle into their hair, and sometimes play with their mom’s hair and then suck their thumbs,” says Dehn. “Washing really helps by using friction to rub away the germs.” She says, to be effective, soap up for at least 30 seconds or as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.

3. Use paper goods and dispose of them. Disposable paper towels, plates, and cups can be a mom’s best friend. Also, toss used tissues immediately. “Throw them right into the trash bin then wash hands, and ask kids to do the same,” Weisenfeld says.

4. Keep the bathroom hygienic. “If you can, use your own separate bathroom from the sick kids,” says Weisenfeld. “Wipe down surfaces where germs can live, including the bathroom.”

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5. Clean all counters. Dehn says to make sure you also keep the kitchen and other areas clean too. “We are constantly cleaning, wiping down surfaces, going through 12 packs of paper towels like cupcakes at a birthday party,” she says. “Wiping down all surfaces is a must, and you don’t have to go crazy and use straight bleach.” She likes to use Mr. Clean Liquid Muscle with disposable paper towels that are tossed after cleaning.

6. Thou shalt not share. This is one of those times you do not want kids sharing their things. Weisenfeld says moms must be mindful not to eat off their children’s plates or let kids share food, utensils, or cups. Also, try not to let them share toys, electronic devices, or even the TV channel changer. If they do, don't forget shared phones, tablets, computer keyboards, and other areas where germs can congregate.

7. Have kids cover their mouths. One way to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses is to ask them to cough into their elbows and not their hands, Weisenfeld says. Moms also have to remember to not touch their sick children’s mouths while tending to them.

8. Air filters. Hospital-grade HEPA certified air filters can help reduce the spread of airborne germs, says Dehn. It’s good to have one handy for when the need arises.

9. Don’t forget self care. Kids need you when they are sick so self care and prevention are important. “Moms and dads do get sick and illnesses do run through families, so put your oxygen mask on first,” says Dehn. “Get plenty of rest to keep your immune system working well. Get your flu shot. Stock up the medicine cabinet just in case.”

Unfortunately, we cannot seal kids in bubble wrap to keep them from getting sick, but we can teach them good health sense and good hygiene, says Dehn.

We taught our son to recognize and politely avoid kids at school who were obviously sick, with runny noses, coughing, and hoarse voices,” she says. “He had a tendency to get really sick and miss a whole week of school when he was exposed to the other little germ factories at school.”

How do you stop the spread of germs in your house?



Laurie Sue Brockway is a journalist and author who has written extensively on love, marriage, parenting, wellbeing, and emotional health. Her work has appeared in hundreds of print and online publications, including Everyday Health and The Huffington Post.

Image ©iStock.com/timsa

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