By Hansa Bhargava, MD
WebMD Medical Editor, Pediatrics
Ebola seems to be in the news everywhere these days. I’ve been hearing from concerned parents who are wondering if an outbreak is possible in the U.S. Public health officials assure us that it’s very unlikely. In this country, our health care workers know how to deal with contagious viruses. Every year, they effectively and quickly help prevent the spread of — and get people better from — potentially dangerous viruses like the flu.
So how does this translate to our homes, schools, and public places where infectious diseases can spread? This is where we need to go back to the basics of stopping an infection in its tracks. Remember – the best thing anyone can do is avoid getting sick in the first place.
As a mom of two 8-year-olds, I worry about infections spreading, too. But honestly it’s the common infections that my kids will be exposed to when they go back to school this month that concern me – strep throat, pink eye, rotavirus (stomach infection), and yes, even the common cold. Here are some simple, old-fashioned tips to help prevent any virus, deadly or not:
1. Wash hands frequently — for at least 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song) — especially before eating and after going to the bathroom.
2. Don’t share foods or drink from the same straw.
3. Try not to touch your eyes or mouth without washing your hands.
4. Don’t put things into your mouth, such as pencils or pens.
5. Cough or sneeze into your shoulder (to prevent spread of viruses to others).
Remind your kids of these tips regularly. Creating these habits will go a long way in keeping them safe and healthy, no matter what is happening around you.