How to Avoid a Cold in Your Household

We’ve all probably experienced the same fear: someone in your home is sick and it’s only a matter of time before you catch the same bug. This time of year, viruses can spread even more easily between family and friends. Keeping you and your loved ones healthy while someone in the household is sick may require some adjustment, but it could keep you out of your sickbed and enjoying more of your holiday activities.

Here are some tips that can help keep you healthy if you find yourself sharing a living space with someone who is sick:

1) Recognize the threat and rank the risk

Different illnesses require different levels of response. Your response to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be much different than someone with a runny nose. Understanding the signs of sickness is an important step in preventing the spread of the illness. There are many different symptoms associated with the cold, stomach flu, and other easily transmissible illnesses and they can often differ depending on what you have. However, in general, someone might show signs of sickness if:

• Less energetic
• Cough
• Loss of appetite
• Lethargic
• Congestion/ Runny Nose
• Low-grade fever
• Generally feeling not like themselves

2) Maintain distance

Keeping those who are sick from those who aren’t is a simple way to reduce the spread of an illness in your household. While it may be difficult to maintain distance in smaller households, it’s important to isolate those who are sick so that others do not develop the same condition. For example, if your child is sick, let them hang out in a separate room and bring meals to the door. Maintaining distance also applies to guests. If you are aware of sickness in your household, it’s not a good idea to have people over who could also become infected.

3) Balance your diet

Eating a healthy diet makes a huge difference in how you respond and recover from illness of any sort. Those who are nutrient-deficient could be putting their immune system at risk. To keep you as safe as possible, it’s a good idea to keep a well-balanced diet. This includes fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll come down with a cold if you have a Twinkie or slice of pie at dinner, it just means you need to provide your body with the proper fuel to fight off illness.

4) Get adequate sleep

Just like food, your body recovers and restores energy levels from sleep. Our immune systems are only as strong as we allow them to be. Staying up late at night could cause your body unnecessary stress and lead to illness. The amount of hours of sleep you need each night depends on your age. For most adults, seven to eight hours is a good amount of sleep each night, but teenagers or school-aged children typically need nine to 10 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can also impact your recovery time if you do get sick.

5) Wash your hands

The COVID-19 pandemic has kind of made handwashing a no brainer for most people, but it is still an important step towards preventing the transmission of viruses and bacteria. Germs can live on our hands, transferred from door knobs, guard rails, money, and many other things. It’s important to practice regular handwashing after using the restroom and before and after mealtimes, especially if you have someone sick in the household. In addition, avoid putting your hands near your face. Many germs are introduced to the body through our mouth, nose, and eyes.

6) Run errands and help with food

If someone in your house is sick, offer to help them with groceries or errands so that they can limit their exposure to your family and others. Let your family member focus on eating healthy and resting so they can hasten their recovery and reduce the likelihood their illness will spread to other household members.

Taking these preventative measures won’t guarantee you won’t catch a cold or virus from someone in your house. Even if you wrapped yourself in a bubble at the first sign of illness, there’s still a chance you might have caught whatever they have.

“Oftentimes, by the time a person is showing that they’re ill, they’ve already had the illness for several days,” said Apostolos “Paul” Hiotellis, MD, a board certified family medicine physician with TPMG City Center Family Medicine. A lot of the time, there’s no way to see illnesses like stomach bugs or colds coming, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the necessary precautions just in case your family isn’t already sick.

Not every illness is a simple cold or stomach bug, so it’s a good idea to monitor your loved one to make sure their sickness isn’t something more serious. Here are a few symptoms that might indicate it’s time to see a doctor concerning your illness:

• A temperature of 100.5 or higher, lasting more than a couple of days
• Shortness of breath
• Green snot or colorful, productive cough
• Continued wheezing
• Drainage that’s difficult to swallow

As we near the holiday season and are spending more time around extended family and friends, viruses and bugs are bound to crop up, but taking safety measures like these could keep illness from spreading any farther than it has already. One of the best ways to act preventatively during the cold or flu season is to simply maintain a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet, good hydration, and a consistent sleep schedule. If you or a loved one need more advice on staying safe from acute illnesses, talk to a TPMG provider today about your options.

Dr. Paul Hiotellis

About Apostolos “Paul” I. Hiotellis, MD

Apostolos “Paul” Hiotellis, MD, is a board certified family medicine physician in Newport News providing care to patients of all ages at TPMG City Center Family Medicine. In his clinical practice, Dr. Hiotellis takes a special interest in the treatment and management of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preventative medicine. He approaches treatment and care by considering all aspects of a patient’s physical and mental wellness to promote future health and optimal quality of life.

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