How to Care for Someone Without Getting Sick (cont.)

What to Watch Out For

Controlling contagions and getting kids back to school as soon as they were well was the reason the role of school nurse was created more than 100 years ago. "School nurses have been behind vaccinations that have reduced or eliminated diseases such as smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio," says Wanda Miller, RN, MA, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) in Castle Rock, Colo.

But contagious diseases often confound the best efforts to control them. While adults are urged to get vaccinated for flu, the vaccines aren't always 100% effective. And flu can lead to serious respiratory complications, such as pneumonia.

Now there's concern about a resurgence of whooping cough (pertussis). "Babies are routinely vaccinated, but new evidence shows that vaccine effectiveness wanes after five or 10 years," says Dee-Dee Vallez, RN, MS, NASN continuing education director. "We made a recommendation on adolescent pertussis vaccination in the spring, and the Food and Drug Administration's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices is currently looking at adult vaccinations."

Basic Prevention Strategies

Prevention begins with basic hygiene:

  • Approach hand washing as a survival skill, which it is.
  • Never touch your mouth, nose, or eyes without washing your hands.
  • Teach your kids not to share, as in guzzling milk from the carton or double dipping chips.
  • Family members should cover their mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, and dispose of the tissue themselves.
  • You should also avoid sharing personal items like toiletries, towels, and pillows.

It seems ironic to say that staying in good health is one of the best ways to keep from getting sick. But it's true, says Miller. "For example, about one-fourth of all kids test positive for strep without being sick themselves. If you're ill with something else and your resistance is down, you could get strep throat. Getting proper rest and good nutrition can help improve resistance."

Advice From a Germ Freak

Allison Janse, author of The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, shares tips with WebMD on staying well when a spouse or child comes home with a bug. "Be prepared. Stock up on supplies before you need them."