4 Things You Should Be Doing to Avoid Catching the Common Cold

Cold and flu season is upon us, with sore throats, sniffles and coughs lurking around every corner in classrooms, homes and car seats.

Unless you want to lock your family safely in the confines of your home for the next four months, now is the time to employ some easy, preventive steps for keeping your family cold and flu-free:

Wash Those Hands

Your grandmother wasn’t wrong with this age-old advice. You can’t control every germ in your environment, and you can’t keep your kids from being exposed — but what you can do is try to keep those hands clean before they are rubbing their eyes, wiping their noses and eating:

  • Make it a rule that the first thing you and your kids do when you come into the house is wash your hands. No snacks and no play until hands are clean.
  • Keep hand sanitizer handy. While there’s definitely an argument for nixing sanitizer for the sake of building up your immune system, keep a bottle in your purse or car for those really icky moments when a sink isn’t close.

Think Like a Germ

When you're cleaning, concentrate on the sneaky, always-touched areas of your home. In mine I can usually follow my youngest around to find these "germ hotspots":

  • Regularly clean doorknobs, cell phones, remote controls, changing tables, toilets and faucets. Make sure you wear gloves for extra protection, and also make sure that you or your housekeeper cover all the cleaning tasks on this list at least once a month.
  • Keep disinfectant wipes in your car so you can wipe down the steering wheel and once-over the car seats, cup holders and door handles.

Eat, Drink and Rest Your Way to Health

Be proactive and feed your family foods that will help thwart off sickness before it starts:

  • Add garlic to your recipes. The pungent superfood contains compounds called allion and allicin, which have direct antibiral effects. It’s most helpful when consumed raw, but perfectly good when cooked down in a sauce or added to a stir-fry. Make a big batch of garlicky tomato sauce and store in your freezer for easy meals through the busy holiday season.
  • Take extra vitamin C. In my house, the kids regularly take a gummy vitamin and the adults take Ester C daily. I add Airborne if I feel those first signs of a cold (usually starts with a tingle in my throat).
  • Ever hear of the phrase "feed a cold"? You can feed to prevent a cold too. Add smoothies to your breakfast routine, making use of fruits and veggies high in vitamin C. Plus, kids love being able to "design" their own smoothies.
  • Hydrate and recharge. You’ve heard this a thousand times, but it can easily be forgotten during chaotic times of the year. Make sure you and your family are drinking a lot of water during the day (check those water bottles the kids come home with!) to literally flush those germs out of the body. 
  • Another homeopathic trick I use is putting a dab of tea tree in my nostrils when I feel a cold coming on. I once read you should do this to boost your immunity before flying in a plane, and I added it to my personal illness-prevention plan.

Be a Sick-Day Strategist

Sick days are stressful for parents and kids. Mostly because you have to draw straws as to which parent stays home — and you never know how long the illness will last (or when you’ll get it yourself). Here are some ways to help plan ahead for a more strategic reaction:

  • Have a list of sitters or family members on hand. Part of your regular caregiver network should be a list of neighbors, caregivers or other qualified sitters who can help out during the day. Keep this list handy so you can send out the bat-signal at the first sign of sickness (or a snow day).
  • Be prepared to work from home. Many companies are more flexible about working remotely when your children are sick. Be prepared to bring home your laptop and a folder of important work materials during this time of year, just in case you unexpectedly need to work from home the next morning. 
  • Talk to your HR department. A lot of companies have Care.com Back-up Care as a workplace benefit. This is a service you can call that places a vetted nanny in your home within an hour or so. You might still decide to stay home and supervise, but at least you can get your work done (and save your sick days for when you’re sick)!
  • If you do take a sick day to care for your kids, take every precaution possible to avoid getting sick yourself, including resting and hydrating.