You hear it every year, so we’re not going to remind you — yet again — to get your flu shot, wash your hands often or stay home if you’re feeling unwell. You already know what to do during flu season, and we’re not here to tell you what you already know.
Instead, we’d like to arm you with some information that may help keep you flu-free — even if the virus has already invaded your home.
How to stay healthy when a loved one has the flu
During flu season, it’s pretty likely that someone in your home is going to bring that pesky bug home. But not to fear! If you’re still healthy — and want to remain that way — follow these simple tricks to avoid getting sick.
1. Try to stay at least three feet away from the sick person at all times.
You’ll want to stay out of the line of fire (read: sneezes and sniffles) if you want to stay healthy yourself. And no, you aren’t a bad parent (or partner) if you refuse to give your sick loved one a hug before bed. If you’re going to take care of them properly, you need to be feeling your best, right?!
2. Throwing out dirty tissues? Stop right there.
It may seem glaringly obvious not to touch a used tissue, but when you find one (or more!) lying around, your first instinct may be to dispose of it. We say: Step away from the tissue. If the sick person is too ill to pick up their own mess, get yourself some disposable rubber gloves before picking up after them.
Pro Tip! Carry a travel size hand sanitizer in your pocket — and use it — for those times you just can’t avoid touching a germ-laden surface. Just make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol if you want it to be effective!
3. Keep the windows closed.
While you might think it’s a good idea to open the windows to let the germs out and the fresh air in, the truth is, you’re making it that much harder for your body to fight off the virus. That’s right, the idea that you can catch a cold in the cold isn’t a myth after all. Learn the science behind why you should stay warm during cold and flu season in this short video.
4. Lock your toothbrush away.
We tend to forget that our toothbrushes (those things we willingly put in our mouths twice a day) are usually left out in the open, unprotected from the elements (and the germs). Considering members of your household are spending a good chunk of their days sneezing, blowing their nose, and inadvertently spreading germs EVERYWHERE, we recommend locking your toothbrush away in a nearby cupboard until the sickness has passed.
5. Avoid sharing pillows, towels or even a bed with a sick person.
If you don’t have an extra couch to crash on while your significant other is sick, draw an invisible line down the center of the bed and make it very, very clear that they are not to cross it. Be sure not to share pillows (change your pillowcase regularly if your partner likes to hog the bed), and color code your towels so that the one you are using to dry your hands and face isn’t covered in germs.
Pro Tip! Double up on the sick person’s pillow cases! The extra layer of material can help absorb any escaping bodily fluids (e.g., sweat, mucus, etc.), leaving the pillow clean, dry and free of unpleasant odors.
6. Do your own dishes and plate your own plates.
Even if a sick person has washed their hands, it’s best not to let them touch your dishes (or food). If you’re the only healthy person in your household, make sure you’re the designated dishwasher while others are ill. And make sure to make and serve your own food while you’re at it.
7. Sanitize surfaces.
This doesn’t have to be a big job, we promise. Simply have a pack of disinfectant wipes on hand, so you can quickly wipe down tables, counters, door knobs, faucets, TV remotes and even cell phones at the end of each day.
8. Don’t touch your face.
No matter how clean you keep your home, or how good you are at staying away from sick loved ones, your hands are bound to come into contact with the virus at some point. The good news is you won’t get sick from simply touching germs — they need to enter via a mucus membrane (e.g., through your mouth or nose) in order for you to become infected.
Pro Tip! If you’re the type that can’t seem to keep your hands away from your face, then just be sure to wash often — sorry, we said it! — and keep your fingernails short. Bacteria likes to live in the space between your nails and skin, plus it’s harder to clean under there.
Now you’re armed with the information you need to fight the flu — even if it’s already invaded your home. Stay healthy, comrades!