Tips to Live By

How to Share a Home With Someone Who's Sick (Without Getting Sick Yourself)

April 17, 2020 - Katie McCallum

The viruses that cause common illnesses such as the seasonal flu, common cold, stomach flu and COVID-19 can all be spread from person-to-person — especially between people who share common spaces or live with one another.

Depending on the illness, viral particles can spread through infectious respiratory droplets or hands contaminated with infectious feces (oops!). These particles can also be deposited on commonly touched surfaces, and then picked up by someone else.

This means that sharing a home with someone who's sick requires important adjustments to your everyday routine.

Here are tips you can use to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs while sharing a home with someone who's sick.

Avoid sharing common spaces and personal items

When someone you care about sick, your first instinct may be to comfort and spend more time than usual with them. But, in reality, you should probably do the opposite.

Ideally, the person who's sick should stay in a separate room and — if the cause is something like the stomach flu, or another infectious illness that can easily spread through fecal matter — even use a separate bathroom, if possible. You should also avoid sharing everyday items, including towels, bedding and dishes. Lastly, the person who is sick shouldn't be the one cooking meals for the rest of the healthy household. 


Wash your hands

Whether you've touched a potentially contaminated surface or item, hand washing is a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of getting sick — as well as prevent the spread of germs.

In addition to the important times you already know, you should also wash your hands after interacting with someone in your home who's sick.

And keep in mind that hand washing is a bit more nuanced than running your hands under some water. When washing your hands, make sure you get a good lather and rub all surfaces. Time matters, too. The process above should last for about 20 seconds — or, as a rule of thumb, the length of time it takes to hum the Happy Birthday song twice. And don't skimp on drying your hands after washing them. Wherever there is moisture, germs and dirt can accumulate.

Avoid touching your face

Since you can't actually see (and, therefore, know) if germs are lurking on your hands — and you also can't be constantly washing your hands — another important way to prevent getting sick is to avoid touching your face.

While the viruses mentioned can't make you sick through your skin, you can get sick if the virus is on your hands and you touch one of the mucous membranes of your face, such as your mouth, nose or eyelids.

Try to avoid touching your face as much as possible. If you do need to touch your face, wash you hands first.

Disinfect commonly touched surfaces

Germs are everywhere, and each germ is different — but pretty much every germ can survive on various surfaces for varying periods of time.  (Related: The Most Likely (& Sometimes Surprising) Places to Find Germs)

When someone in your home is sick, it's important to clean and disinfect the commonly touched surfaces where germs may be hiding, including door knobs and door handles, counters and tabletops, kitchen and bathroom faucets, toilet flushers, light switches, and TV remotes.

For most viruses, regular household cleaning spray or water and dish soap are sufficient to disinfect these surfaces. However, some viruses are harder to kill, such as the virus that causes the stomach flu. Ridding surfaces of hardier viruses may require a diluted bleach solution.

Do laundry

Clothes, towels and sheets worn or used by someone who is sick should be handled with caution — especially if laundry is soiled with fecal matter. Hold it away from your face and body, avoid shaking it and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

You don't need to use a special detergent to wash a sick person's laundry, but you should consider washing it using hot water and a longer washing cycle.

Avoid having guests

No one likes to cancel a family gathering or dinner party. But if someone in your home is sick, it's best to avoid having guests. This will limit the risk of spreading the illness to other healthy people. 

Be the designated errand-runner

To prevent the spread of illness, it's always best for someone who's sick to stay home as much as possible. This means you should be the one getting groceries and running other errands.

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Categories: Tips to Live By