It’s impossible to completely prevent sharing germs – unless, that is, we live in bubbles. Here are some tips about how to not spread colds and viruses between friends and family.
The weather may be improving slightly, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to let our guard down when it comes to cold and flu. But how do we do our due diligence in preventing the spread of germs from one person to another? Sara Anne Healy, MD, who practices Pediatrics, Infectious Disease at Renown Medical Group – Pediatrics, has insight.
How are viruses like flu passed between kids?
Viruses are transmitted between kids when droplets from a cough or sneeze of someone with the flu moves through the air and gets into the mouth or nose of another child. The flu virus can also live on surfaces or objects for a short period of time (2-8 hours) and then spread to other kids when they come into contact with these surfaces and then touch his/her own eyes, mouth, and/or nose.
What things do you recommend kids do NOT share during flu season? Is this exclusive to flu season, or is this recommendation year-round?
In general, regardless of the season, it’s good not to share the following to avoid spreading viruses, such as the flu: toothbrushes, towels, bars of soap, loofahs, food utensils, dishes and glassware. Anything that touches another individual’s mouth or nose and then can touch your face puts you at risk for viral infections.
Why are objects (like cell phones, Hydroflasks, towels, etc.) such great breeding grounds for viruses?
Objects that we use on a regular basis, especially with constant contact with our hands (for example, cell phones) are used in situations where we would normally wash our hands before doing anything else. This repetitive checking, swiping, and typing on the cell phone between you and your kids can easily spread viruses (and bacteria) from one individual to the next. Other objects, such as towels or Hydroflasks, have a tendency for moisture to develop and persist. This provides a great environment for germs to live. Also given their use, direct contact with oral, respiratory, and sometimes fomites occurs that is then used to directly contact your face, mouth, and hands, which in turn allows viruses to be easily transmitted from one person to the next.
Why is it so common for viruses to spread at places like schools?
Schools are inherently prime locations for the spread of viruses given the close group setting of kids as well as the sharing of supplies and equipment with multiple children.
Is there anything else kids and parents should keep in mind when considering how germs and viruses spread?
Take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
- If sick with flu-like illness, stay home from daycare or school for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
- Cough into elbows or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. And then throw that tissue away and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or if not available, with alcohol-based hand rub
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Regularly clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces and objects.
What is your top recommendation to prevent sharing germs and the spread of illness?
Wash your hands often and get vaccinated when you can!