In a house with more than one child, keeping a viral or bacterial illness confined solely to the child originally infected can mean the difference between caring for one sick child and several. The process can also be a quite challenging one, due to the fact that even unwell children tend to be very mobile and aren’t always sure how they should manage their symptoms in such a way that limits contagion. In the interest of containing the spread of illnesses and preventing transmission between siblings, here are nine tips and tricks that may help you ensure the good health of the rest of the family.
- Enforce a Strict Hand Washing Policy – While it may seem painfully obvious, making sure that kids wash their hands regularly and properly is one of the most effective means of reducing the spread of any bacteria or viruses that cause illness. Insisting that your kids wash their hands often and well, especially when a member of the family is ill, can help to keep everyone else healthy.
- Teach Kids to Sneeze or Cough into Their Elbows – Teaching your child to cover his mouth when he sneezes or coughs might be polite thing to do, but it’s ultimately useless if he does so and then forgets to wash his hands. Every surface he touches after a sneeze could end up coated in germs, so it’s best to teach your children to sneeze into the crook of their elbow, where contact with people and surfaces is less likely.
- Sanitize Shared Toys – Sanitizing toys that a sick child shares with healthy siblings in a solution of bleach and water can kill any lingering germs that may be lurking on them. It’s wise to get into the habit of regularly sanitizing toys during cold and flu season, even when everyone in the family is healthy, to prevent contagion before it starts.
- Wipe Down Common Surfaces – When a sick child lounges on the couch and channel surfs all day, he’s almost certainly transferring germs from his hands to the remote. Wiping down common surfaces and items that you know a sick child has been handling with antibacterial wipes can help to kill germs before healthy children pick them up.
- Pay Extra Attention to Bathroom Surfaces – Illnesses with gastrointestinal symptoms may leave your bathroom laden with viruses and harmful bacteria, while cold and flu symptoms can introduce germs to faucet and toilet handles. Make a point of paying extra attention to the surfaces in a bathroom, especially a shared one, when one child is sick and his siblings aren’t showing any signs of illness.
- Make Sure Tissues Are Thrown Away – Suffering from a runny nose on top of a host of other symptoms not only generates a pile of tissues, but also might cause even a normally fastidious child to leave those germ-filled tissues lying around. Contact with one of those tissues is a surefire way of transmitting illness, so make sure that your little one has a wastebasket nearby for his discarded tissues.
- Keep Kids Apart as Much as Possible – While it simply isn’t feasible to completely quarantine a sick child by exiling him to the solitude of his bedroom for the duration of his illness, it is a good idea to limit the amount of contact that your healthy children have with a sick one to minimize the risk of contagion.
- Sleepovers For Siblings That Share a Room – If your sick child shares his bedroom with a healthy sibling, it might be wise to consider putting your healthy child up in the guest room or your own bedroom until he’s feeling better.
- Practice Sanitary Habits All The Time – By the time that your child is exhibiting symptoms of most common illnesses, he’s been contagious for a significant amount of time. Because an incubation period can be long enough to create a false sense of security, it’s a good idea to practice sanitary habits as much as possible, stepping your efforts up during the colder months.