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How to stay healthy while caring for a sick child

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Every parent knows when they send their child off to school or day care, at some point, they’re going to come home with a virus.

But having a sick child at home doesn’t necessarily mean the entire family should catch the bug.

According to Dr. Frank Esper, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, the best way to keep a virus from spreading is through good hand-washing.

But, he admits, it gets a little tricky when you’re caring for a very small child.

One way to help minimize the risk of spreading a virus around the house is to designate a primary caregiver.

“If there is one caregiver in the house, make sure that’s the caregiver and that’s the main caregiver for this child, rather than every hour it’s someone new,” said Esper. “Because then you’re just exposing more and more individuals.”

When older children get sick, he said it’s best to have them stay in their rooms. This can help to cut down the virus exposure for the rest of the family.

“It’s very good, if you have a large family, to keep older children and teens confined to one area of the house, maybe one floor of the house, instead of letting them all over the place with everybody else,” said Esper.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the sick child has their own set of utensils at the dinner table -- and no sharing of cups or drinks.

Esper said putting reminders around the house, like a bottle of hand sanitizer right in the kitchen, can help keep family members vigilant when it comes to hand-hygiene.

“I would definitely have one in the kitchen, at the dining room table, or in the living room by the TV- even propped up there on the couch, to make sure that they have easy and quick access,” he said. “The best thing to do is to wash your hands, multiple times during the day.”

Esper said most viruses like to live on our hands, but some can live on surfaces for an hour or more.

He recommends cleaning contaminated surfaces with soap or bleach, which will eliminate the virus on contact.