Keep One Sick Kid From Infecting Your Whole Family
Disinfect away. Germs can live for hours on inanimate objects. Target toys, doorknobs, remote controls, handrails, tables, books, light switches, crib railings, faucets, the toilet handle, the telephone, the diaper-pail handle, and more, says Dr. Rotbart, author of Germ Proof Your Kids. To sanitize a bunch of small toys at once, place them in a mesh bag and run them through the dishwasher -- but avoid washing dolls because their hair will melt. Or dump toys into a bathtub filled with a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach to each gallon of water, and rinse well. Disinfect every time your sick child touches a toy, if you can, or at least once a day while she's sick. And separate her laundry from the rest of the family's, using hot water and the hottest dryer setting.
Give the sick child some space. Some viruses can actually travel 5 to 6 feet from a sneeze or a cough. "Making sure other children stay at least an arm's length away from a sick sibling is a smart strategy," says Lilly Immergluck, M.D., a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. If your children share a bedroom and you have the space, put the sick child to sleep on his own in another room for as long as he has a fever, a cough, or cold symptoms.
Ban sharing. Most of us know that we shouldn't use the same cups, toothbrushes, or eating utensils. But did you know that you should give sick family members a separate place to store their toothbrush, and their own towels or paper towels for hand drying? Even give the patient his own toothpaste. "Toothbrushes pick up germs on the head of the toothpaste tube," says Dr. Rotbart. And each child should have his own set of crayons or markers, if possible -- it's much easier than trying to disinfect them.