1. Cover coughs and sneezes

Cover coughs

Flu germs are believed to spread through droplets from the mouth and nose. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Make sure to throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands straight away. If there’s no tissue handy, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.

It can be tough to get kids to practice these habits as well. The Boston Children’s Museum recommends a cute way to turn this into a game for kids: Turn a sock into a “Germ Eating Monster” by cutting off the rounded toe part of the sock and decorating the tube that’s left. Slide the decorated tube onto their arm and have them “feed” the germ-loving monster by coughing into its face.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

No touching

According to the CDC, flu germs can live for two to eight hours on hard surfaces. That’s why it’s so easy to pick up flu germs without knowing it. You can get infected if you touch an infected doorknob or light switch and then rub your eyes or bite your nails. Learning to keep your hands away from your face can be tough, especially for children. Remind them often, as well as yourself.

3. Wash your hands often

Wash hands

All hand washing is not equal. For it to be effective, make sure you and your family follow these steps:

  1. Run warm water over your hands.
  2. Add soap.
  3. Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse and dry.

You can stock up on alcohol-based hand sanitizers for areas where sinks aren’t available or when you’re out and about. Store them out of the reach of young children and ensure children have adult supervision when using them. Make sure your hand sanitizers are at least 60 percent alcohol, and remember that they’re not a replacement for washing your hands with soap and warm water — they don’t tackle all germs, and don’t work on visibly dirty hands.

You’ll need to remind kids to wash up:

  • each time they use the bathroom
  • before they eat
  • after they come home from school or a play date

You can print out hand washing reminders to put up by your sinks as visual reminders for children (and forgetful adults). It can also help to set up a hand sanitizer station by your door, as a first line of defense against outside germs.

4. Limit contact with family members who are ill

Keep your distance

If someone in your family does get the flu, take these steps to prevent the flu from spreading:

  • Keep the sick person at home.
  • Limit close contact between the sick person and other family members as much as you can while they’re contagious. In general, this is up to a week after they show symptoms.
  • Change sleeping arrangements, if possible.

You should also avoid sharing the following items from the sick person:

  • washcloths
  • towels
  • dishes
  • toys
  • utensils

5. Clean your home

Housecleaning

Flu germs and viruses love to lurk on items you touch every day. Here are some hot spots for germs:

  • kitchen sponges
  • dishcloths
  • cutting boards
  • home desks
  • floors
  • sinks
  • toilets

Clean and disinfect these hot spots regularly. You can microwave your kitchen sponge for one minute on a high setting to zap germs. Better yet, throw it out.

If someone in your household has the flu, take special care when washing their things. Wash dishes and silverware thoroughly by hand or in the dishwasher. You don’t have to do a sick person’s laundry separately, but try to avoid scooping up an armload of items and holding them close before washing them. Use laundry soap and dry on a hot setting. Always wash your hands immediately after handling dirty laundry.

6. Practice healthy habits

Healthy habits

Don’t forget the power of a healthy lifestyle to fight off sickness. The following tips can go far in keeping your immune system healthy and your family well this flu season.

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat well, with lots of vegetables and fruits.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage your stress.

The takeaway

Healthy personal hygiene habits and frequent housecleaning go a long way to help keep the flu away. If someone in your household does get the flu, keep the person at home, disinfect and clean your home well, and limit close contact with that person whenever possible.