How to Stop the Spread of Germs

The Centers for Disease Control reminds us that the main way illnesses such as colds and flu are spread is from person to person in the form of respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This is called "droplet spread." Germs also can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface such as a desk and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. Some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces such as tables, doorknobs and telephones.

To help stop the spread of germs:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Remind your children to practice healthy habits, too
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue and then throw it away. Do not carry used tissues around with you. Wash your hands every time you cough or sneeze.
  • Keep your hands clean by counting to 20 as you wash them!
  • The Center for Disease Control recommends that when you wash your hands, use warm water and soap and that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. That's about the same time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
  • Use soap substitutes when necessary.
  • When soap and water are unavailable, alcohol-based gel sanitizers or hand wipes may be used. If using a gel sanitizer, rub your hands until the gel is dry.
  • Teach your children healthy habits, too.
  • Remind children to practice healthy habits at home and at school, especially proper hand washing techniques. Children need to get plenty of sleep and physical activity, drink water and eat good food to help them stay healthy.

How Do I Know When to Call the Doctor?

In most cases of a cold or the flu, you don't need to see your doctor. However, if you have any of the symptoms listed below, notify your physician:

In children:

  • High (above 102°F) or prolonged fever
  • A cold that lasts for more than 10 days
  • Trouble breathing, fast breathing or wheezing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Earache or drainage from the ear
  • Changes in mental state (such as not waking up, irritability or seizures)
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but return with a fever and a worse cough
  • Worsening of a chronic medical condition

In adults:

  • High (above 102°F) or prolonged fever
  • A cold that last for more than 10 days
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Fainting or feeling like you are about to faint
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Severe pain in your face or forehead
  • Hoarseness, sore throat or a cough that won't go away