Noah got sick on Tuesday and by Thursday night both Elisabeth and I vomited twice and ended up sleeping away all day and night on Friday and much of Saturday. Thankfully Elisabeth’s family are nearby and they helped us watch Noah both on Friday and Saturday so we could recover. But we may move soon not be near help like that. It’s time we learned how to best to keep the entire family from getting sick at the same time.
Wash Hands, Wash Hands!
This is the heartfelt advice our doctor friend, Steven Orimoto, MD. Florence Nightingale‘s hand-washing campaign for hygiene maybe 150 years old but its wisdom still rings true.
A BabyZone article recommends that frequent hand washing be a rule for every family member especially:
- before eating and cooking
- after using the bathroom
- after cleaning around the house
- after touching animals, including family pets
- after visiting or taking care of any sick friends or relatives
- after blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
- after being outside (playing, doing yard work, walking the dog, etc.)
Eat Your Own Food
One of the first things I learned as a husband was that I was now the household garbage can. Any food Elisabeth didn’t want to eat, I ate. When I became a father and Noah started to eat table food, I ate Noah’s leftovers, too. Yes, it’s a wonder that I didn’t gain weight!
When Noah was sick, I automatically ate his leftover food. Maybe I got his stomach virus then and later passed it onto Elisabeth.
Every family member should have their own cups, eating utensils, own towel and own food.
Cough Into Your Elbow
Coughing in your hands lends itself to spreading germs because you will mostly likely touch something two seconds later. Instead cough into elbow which almost nothing touches.
Just so you know I’m not a germophobe, I’ll admit that I think people who use hand sanitizers ten times a day are over doing it. Once I was at Borders Cafe and I watched a man find a table and use a hand sanitizer squirt bottle to wiped down his entire table before using it. That might be a bit excessive.
However it makes sense to use an alcohol to sanitize a phone or remote control after it’s been used by a family member who is sick. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can kill bacteria and some virus that won’t go away with just hand washing. And studies show that using hand alcohol doesn’t dry out your skin.
A study entitled, “Illness Transmission in the Home: A Possible Role for Alcohol-Based Hand Gels“, published in 2005 made the following conclusion: “In homes with young children enrolled in child care, illness transmission to family members occurs frequently. Alcohol-based hand gel use was associated with reduced respiratory illness transmission in the home.” A full-text version of the article is available online.
I hate stomach flu, don’t you? Gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, as it is commonly known, is caused by the one of several viruses including the rotavirus. Interestingly, the above study noted that alcohol kills the rotavirus whereas hand washing with plain soap only served to spread it around. Did you know that half a million children under the age of five die from the rotavirus every year? This sobering factoid (PDF) is from the World Health Organization. Okay, that’s mostly from developing countries. But the rotavirus can be deadly.
Beware of the poop! Feces of a person infected with the rotavirus may contain 10+ trillion infectious particles per gram. It only takes a hundred particles to infect you.
Word to the wise: use a hand sanitizer after blowing your nose or changing a diaper.
Go Easy on Milk Products After Stomach Flu
This isn’t anything about preventing other family members from getting sick, but it is so interesting. My mom always told me not to eat dairy products after you get sick. Now I’ve found medical evidence why. The rotavirus destroys cells in your intestines called enterocytes, which are responsible for secreting lactase which is what allows you to digest milk. Restoration of enterocytes may take a few weeks, so go easy on the milk and cheese for a while.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
- Make sure not to skip meals. Immunity doesn’t function well when you’re malnourished.
- Get plenty of liquid so your system can flush away viruses and waste that can cause sickness.
- Eat good bacteria found in yogurt or probiotic capsules.
- Get plenty of rest every night.