We’ve been aware of every runny nose, cough, and sore throat we’ve had since February. As the regular cold and flu season collides with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, it’s important to be extra vigilant and take precautions to avoid virus spread—even within the household.
“If there are mild symptoms that include a cough and a fever, then definitely one must isolate themselves from others so as to avoid spreading the infection,” said Dr. Ilene Ruhoy, founder of the Center for Healing Neurology.
If mild symptoms do not include a cough or fever, check with your doctor for advice. If symptoms persist or worsen call your doctor to learn how to get tested, Ruhoy said.
We spoke with several doctors and experts about how to help prevent spreading colds, the flu, and COVID. Here are six tips they shared.
Prepare Your Home
If you or a family member needs to isolate, you’ll want to make sure you have the supplies you need to heal and be comfortable. Taking time to prepare your home now could help you manage mild symptoms comfortably without spreading germs.
“It can be hard to separate from close household members, but since we know distance, mask-wearing and good hygiene can help contain viruses in public, the same concepts can apply at home, and we can all only do our best,” said Dr. Ellen Turner, a board-certified infectious diseases physician.
Consider a Quarantine Space
“Studies have shown significant rates of spread of COVID-19 among household contacts, but flu and other viruses can spread easily as well,” Dr. Turner said.
The CDC recommends quarantining any household member who has been exposed to COVID-19 to the extent possible. Ideally this would include a bedroom and bathroom.
This might mean having a back-up sleeping arrangement in mind. Prepare now by making sure you have enough space to pull out the sofa bed or have batteries for the air mattress pump—before someone gets sick.
Not every house has a bathroom for every person, but some bathroom upgrades could help prevent virus spread.
“If the bathroom is to be shared by a patient and other household members, consider swapping out the faucet, light switch, soap dispenser and vanity openers with hands-free models,” said Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC, a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach and the author of Wellness by Design.
Otherwise, the person who is sick should clean and disinfect the frequently touched surfaces in the bathroom after each use, according to the CDC.
Plan Some Activities
“It’s extremely stressful to sit looking at all four walls every day,” said Dr. Shana Feibel, staff psychiatrist at the Lindner Center of HOPE. “But if you divide the time into more manageable sections, it can make it seem to go by more quickly and you’ll get more done.”
She recommends preparing for the possibility of isolation by making a list of things you like to do and hobbies you’ve been wanting to try, such as crossword puzzles, origami, or painting. Have those materials on hand.
In addition, make sure to have a device for connecting with others. If the device is shared, disinfect after each use as keyboards are high-touch areas where germs can spread, according to the CDC.
“The key is to find a balance between staying connected with the outside world and feeling comfortable doing things by yourself that you can enjoy alone,” Feibel said.
Clean, Clean, Clean
If your supply of disinfecting wipes, sprays, and hand sanitizer is running low, consider restocking now. Cleaners should be 3% hydrogen peroxide and/or 70% rubbing alcohol for disinfecting, said Tonya Harris, a board-certified nutritionist and environmental toxin expert.
“For both of these, make sure to wet surfaces thoroughly, and allow them to sit up to 10 minutes,” Harris advised.
When COVID-19 struck a family member, Harris was able to keep from infecting others in the household.
“Disinfect high-touch or frequently used items several times daily if you can,” Harris said. “These include remotes, cell phones, keys, and frequently used faucets, countertops, and light switches.”
Keep a supply of gloves and masks for caregivers who take out garbage or handle dishes.
Stock Up on Food and Supplements
To avoid running to the grocery store, try to have soothing foods and medicines at the home.
Harris recommends having a variety of canned and frozen foods stocked.
“I also like to keep frozen spinach and berries in hand to make smoothies with, which is especially good to keep a healthy immune system during flu season,” she said.
Dr. Ruhoy also recommended having a supply of vitamin C, vitamin D, echinacea tincture, elderberry tincture, and goldenseal tincture as well as real ginger teas. Stock up on tissues, neti pot supplies, menthol chest rub, nasya oil, and cough drops.
Finally, even though it doesn’t prevent COVID-19, the flu shot can help keep the household healthy during virus season.
“Having the flu can cause further immune suppression and may make one more vulnerable to infection by COVID19, Ruhoy said. “So, get your flu shot.”