What's worse than one miserable, sniffling, germ-filled child? (No, this isn't a riddle.) When you've got one sick kid, life can be rough; but add in a couple more sick kids and it's just plain brutal. Unfortunately, it's pretty difficult to keep germs from spreading within the confines of your home; but that doesn't mean surrendering to the wiles of cold and flu season. You can help prevent your flu-ridden child from starting a household epidemic by following a few tips.
It's no secret that washing hands is a key part of good hygiene. But what you may not realize is that it's absolutely imperative for preventing the spread of germs. That's because 80 percent of infectious diseases are spread by touch, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While your kids may be accustomed to washing before meals, now is the time to increase the frequency — and quality — of those sink sessions.
Separate diapering stations
If you've got more than one kiddo in diapers, a good way to spread germs quickly is to change them both in the same place. To help keep the healthy child well, start changing his or her diaper somewhere other than the changing table in the nursery. Alternatively, use a disposable changing pad cover or clean blanket each time you're attending to the healthy kid.
Be more careful at mealtime
If you're like most families with small children, mealtime can quickly turn into a buffet-style free-for-all — and the only time of the day that your kids willingly and enthusiastically share. But when someone is sick, it's time for kids to start being selfish with their own food, as sharing food can spread germs and disease. If necessary, feed your kids in shifts so you can keep an eye on each one as he or she eats.
You may not have to get your arm twisted to follow this rule. If someone in your house is sick (and especially if that someone is you), avoid preparing meals with your own hands. It's easy for germs to spread from your hands to your family's mouths via your well-intentioned chicken casserole. Take a household illness as a good excuse for Chinese takeout.
If you're breastfeeding one or more of your kids, keep it up — even if you or someone else in your household is sick. When you breastfeed your child, you may share germs, but you'll also give your baby important antibodies that could prevent him or her from getting the illness altogether, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Vaccination is a controversial topic these days, but one thing is undisputed: Vaccinations help protect your kids from unwanted diseases. Make sure your kids are up to date on their vaccinations, and take them in for flu shots when they're available. While the effectiveness of the flu shot varies from year to year, the CDC reports that a flu vaccine reduces a child's risk of being admitted to the pediatrics intensive care unit for the flu by 74 percent.
Kristen has a journalism degree and has experience writing in a variety of fields, including art and culture, health and fitness and financial and real estate services. Kristen has written for USA Today, SFGate and the Knot.