Being sick is one of the least enjoyable parts of mortality. Yet it happens repeatedly to various levels of severity over and over again, particularly during the cold and flu seasons of the winter months. With a husband as a teacher/student at a university, and with kids who touch everything and then stick their fingers in their mouths or rub their eyes, we are no stranger to illness. Some winters have been very difficult for us. That’s why I’m grateful that I’ve learned some tips and tricks on how to prevent getting sick. Obviously, I can’t completely prevent myself or my family from getting sick, but I do think the following tips help quite a bit.
1. Wash your hands with soap and water. Often.
This is obvious (obviously), but it is one of the best ways of preventing yourself from getting sick. It is often when our hands touch something we are unaware is covered with the latest virus that we get sick, because our hands touch our faces. A lot. Especially when eating food.
I want to also add to all the parents/caregivers to also always be sure to wash your hands after changing messy diapers. You can catch illnesses from your babies inadvertently if you don’t. Trust me. Use a baby wipe or something at least to clean off your hands after a change. Ideally though find a sink and give them a good lather and rinse.
Also make your children regularly wash their hands, especially after they use the restroom, crawl around on public floors, or interact with a lot of other people and children. Make sure they get a good lather going too.
2. Wipe off those shopping carts! The wipes are free!
My family once got a pretty nasty version of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease and it was horrible. And we never knew where we got it from (other than my husband and I know we got it from our children. See my above point about washing your hands after changing diapers). Since then I have been so very diligent about wiping off every single shopping cart I push around a store, especially considering my 1 year old son is placed in the seat, and my preschoolers like to hold onto the side of the cart. I have my daughters help me wipe down the cart, and I wipe off anything within touching range of my son, and my daughters will usually wipe off the tops of the sides. We are not catching some illness from a shopping cart, whether or not that is where we got HFMD from or not. It’s just smart. People, as well as bacteria from food, touch those carts. Do your part and wipe off your cart, and well. The wipes are free. Just be nice and try to move your cart and crew to the side so you don’t block the entry ways.
3. Avoid sick people.
If you know someone is sick, was recently sick, or may be coming down with something, avoid them! Don’t hang out with them, shake their hand, or share a drink. Don’t do it! If you don’t want to get sick, stay away from the sickness.
Sometimes you can’t avoid sick people, because those people don’t try to contain their sickness to their home. And sometimes people aren’t showing many symptoms but still are contagious. To help handle these unknown or known sick people, try to use some hand sanitizer after things like shaking hands, visiting malls and grocery stores, or riding a bus. Keep a little some in your purse or backpack for easy access. A lot of places also have hand sanitizer dispensers on the wall. Use them. They’re also free.
And during and after a sickness strikes your home or other common environment, sanitize and clean up. Change all the bedding. Vacuum. Mop. Wash toys. Wipe down handrails, handles, switches, and knobs, including in your car. Sometimes I have felt like we kept getting the same cold or flu from our own home. Be wise and clean during and after sicknesses hit.
5. Know what’s going around.
If you are aware of a virus going around at school or at church or at the daycare or even the workplace, it is helpful so you can know to be more vigilant in the above practices. There’s a cool new app out there called the SickWeather App which can help you track what sicknesses are going around in your community. You can see where certain illness have been reported, how long ago, and what it is via a “sick cloud” and can even get “sick zone” alerts when you’ve entered into an area where someone has reported being sick. The app was featured on the Today show:
The Sickweather app lets users anonymously report their own symptoms directly to Sickweather, which will then be saved to the user’s reports so you can keep track of when you (or someone in your home) was sick last and with what. This could be helpful if you end up going to the doctor’s, as you can know exactly when a certain symptom started.
It’s helpful to know what is going around because then you can better prevent it. The Sickweather app gives a “forecast” as well as symptom definitions so you can know if you have something commonly going on. If you do feel symptoms coming on, you can hopefully quicker identify what it might be and prevent further spreading the disease. Also knowing what is going on can help you assess the risk of going out.
Sometimes it can feel like it’s best just to stay a hermit during the winter season because you don’t want to catch anything. But, we all have to get out, and it’s good emotionally to get some fresh air and avoid that cabin fever that often sets in during the cold days as well. So, just use the app and see if there is anything super crazy going on around you and assess the risk. I’d just recommend going at non-peak hours shopping or running errands to avoid coming in contact with as many people in a close proximity.
6. Get a flu shot (and vaccines)
I am including this as an option, although I don’t really believe in flu shots. Some people swear by them, and that’s great. Last year my family all got flu shots, and we all got the flu (confirmed at the doctor’s office). And it wasn’t even “mild” like some say it will be if you get the flu shot and still get sick. Do what you feel is right and best for your family. But know that despite getting the shot, you can still get the flu.
I do believe in getting yourself and your kids vaccinated though! They can definitely help you avoid getting many diseases. Make sure you’re up to date.
And those are my tips on how to prevent getting sick! I am actually not much of a germ-o-phobe and I don’t usually get too many illnesses during a year. But, I sure don’t like being sick or having sick children. I do feel like the above tips help, although, they cannot completely prevent you from catching something (sorry! I wish!).
So, tell me what you do to prevent catching the latest virus going around in your community. I would love to hear it in the comments below.
Also, check out these other great posts: