Germ-Fest

So, I am going to digress from the usual sports medicine topics that I love, and talk a little about what to do when germs invade your house.  I mean when your kid gets sick, then you get sick, then maybe your husband, and then your kid again.  The whole process may last weeks (and feel like months).  I’m basing this on recent personal experience that included a nasty upper respiratory illness for my daughter, a GI illness and then pneumonia for my husband, and two nasty respiratory viruses for myself separated by a week. This house is ready for spring.

When one household member gets sick with a viral illness, containing it isn’t easy.  If I could have replayed the last month in my house, I might have bought a hazmat suit to stop the spread of germs … it takes a toll when the virus keeps steamrolling your family members (and the dog Daisy even got depressed – her number of walks/runs dropped dramatically).  Here are a few common sense tips to help prevent the spread of germs.  These steps may seem simple, but I know I skimp a lot on these things when I’m rushed.

Wash your own hands.  Don’t get too focused on keeping the germs off of your kids.  If you’re not washing your hands, you could be the one who infects your healthy child or spouse.

Make washing your kids hands routine.  Of course this seems obvious, but it can’t be stressed enough. Nearly 80% of infectious diseases are spread by simple touch!  When you have a sick toddler or baby, germs get in every nook and cranny (literally).  And when your kids can wash their hands themselves, teach them to do it for at least 20 seconds (maybe sing the alphabet song or something similar).  If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol based sanitizing gel until it evaporates.

Disinfect, and then do it again.  Wipe off surfaces that sick household members have touched – doors, tables, counters, handrails, etc.  You can even put some plastic toys in the dishwasher and stuffed animals and other toys in the washing machine.  If you’re experiencing a GI illness in your house, be extra careful to disinfect the toilet, floor, and bathroom sink.

Don’t change dirty diapers in the same place for two different children.  Enough said.  This is a great place to exchange germs.

Mealtime.  Don’t share silverware, cups, plates, food, etc.  Germs love these methods of transportation.

Breastfeeding.  Don’t stop breastfeeding if you get sick.  In fact, the antibodies you pass on might help protect your baby from getting sick.  And if your little one is sick and you are nursing, again, just practice good hygiene to avoid transmission to yourself.

Ok, I know these seem simple.  But take them seriously when a family member gets sick.  I know we will next time!

Rachel Brewer, MD

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