For most us, getting caught by the seasonal flu bug means spending a few miserable days at home in bed. In those cases, creating a separate sick room can help protect the rest of the family from what ails you.
“If you or another family member is sick, one way to help stop the spread of germs is to limit your contact with others. Setting up a sick room is an easy way to do that,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.
Start by stocking the room with tissues, alcohol-based hand rub, a thermometer and humidifier. Line the trash can with a plastic bag and make sure it has a tightly fitting lid. Store any medicines in the room out of the reach of children.
Beyond those basics, you also could keep a cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks in the room, along with a cup with a straw or a squeeze bottle to make drinking liquids easily accessible.
To more effectively shield healthy family members from those pesky germs, consider designating a single caregiver to keep visitors to a minimum.
Inside the sick room, encourage the sick person to cover his or her nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, then disposing of it in the trash can.
Also, hard surfaces, linens, dishes and laundry in the sick room should be freshened on a daily basis. Go over surfaces such as doorknobs, bedside tables and bathroom sinks and counters with water and dish soap or common household cleaners that kill germs.
If there is more than one bathroom in the house, consider having the sick person use one while the rest of the household uses the other one. Either way, it’s a good idea to put aside a separate set of towels for the sick person.
A sick person’s dishes can be washed with dish soap or placed in the dishwasher. Similarly, there is no need to separate out a sick person’s laundry. Everything can be washed together. Hold the laundry away from your face and body as you load the washer, otherwise, follow a normal routine and tumble dry on a hot setting.
Beyond setting up a sick room, take general precautions, too, such as frequently washing your hands with soap; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and following healthy habits like getting plenty of sleep and exercising.
Nickels, MS, RD/LD, is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Garfield County.