Cold and flu season is at it’s prime during the winter months. Preventing these ailments may seem a daunting task, especially if you have small children who attend daycare or public school with other sniffling, sneezing, and coughing peers. However, it’s mostly a matter of awareness followed by simple actions.
Step one is cleanliness and germ control. Achieving this goal with young people in your home or classroom is tough to do under the best of circumstances, but there is one basic starting point for all of us. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. My wife works at the reception desk in a medical clinic for children. It’s rare for her to go through an entire day without some child coughing on her work area or spraying her desktop with a juicy sneeze. This is usually followed by a well meaning, but too late remark from the parents, “Ryan, cover your mouth when you sneeze.” Uh . . . mom and dad . . . teaching them to cover their mouths can be done at home. Unfortunately, many parents never correct the errant behavior, or apologize to my wife who is now infected with yet another strain of the latest sinus infection.
Step two is just as easy. Purchase a travel case or two of disinfectant wipes for the car and/or home. Use them to wipe over sinks and countertops once or twice a week. If someone in your family already has a cold, then use them daily where you prepare food. Use them twice a week to wipe off door knobs, faucet handles, television remotes, game controllers, refrigerator handles, and sliding door handles. Keep a package in your car and wipe down seatbelt buckles and interior door handles and control knobs that are used often. When you are out and about, wipe your hands and your children’s hands after spending time in a public place such as a food court or toy store. When using public restrooms wash your hands with soap, then use a disinfectant wipe to grab the door handle when you exit. Just for fun, the next time you step onto an escalator with other people in a department store, remark to your children or spouse in a moderately loud voice, “I wonder how many kids with snotty, germy hands have grabbed this handrail today?” Then watch how many people in front of you remove their hands from the rail. (You might as well have some fun too.)
Step three involves the medical community. It is inevitable that some member of your family will have to see a doctor or medical assistant during the winter months, especially if you have children. But when you are there waiting your turn. be careful what you touch and handle. When you pick up a magazine to read, remind yourself that other sick people have handled that same publication. You must not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth until you have washed your hands or used a wipe on them. Likewise, if you bring your child to a pediatrician, the toys in the waiting room have not been cleaned since at least the night before, if not longer. There may be airborne diseases in the waiting room also. As an extra measure, use a saline mist to rinse your nose out after leaving the medical facility. Generic store brands are less than two dollars and last a week or two. This will also moisturize your sinuses during the dry winter months.
If you do happen to contract the flu or a bad cold strain in your family, do the following. Continue to disinfect the house as in step one, but also wash pillow cases daily with a cap or two of bleach in the load. Do the same thing with towels. A tablespoon of bleach in a full load of wash will rarely fade your towels and linens, but it will kill ninety-five percent of the noxious germs attached to them. Wash special blankets and stuffed toys that children often cling to during illness. Place plastic toys in a mesh bag or top shelf of the dishwasher when the kids have been sick. Empty wastepaper baskets full of used tissues often. Use that bottle of saline rinse to keep germs out of your sinus membranes, and get a bottle for each of the other members of your family. Do not interchange them. Drink lots of fruit juice that contains high concentrations of antioxidants and vitamin C. Most of all, be aware of where you have been, what you’ve touched, and who you’ve been in contact with while you are out and about.