February 17, 2020

How to Stop a Virus From Spreading

Your best defense and offense in protecting yourself and others

Mom and children wash hands at the sink

No one likes being sick, and it can be equally miserable – if not worse – if your kiddos are sick too. Plus it seems like every cold and flu season gets worse with one superbug announcement after another. It’s enough to make anyone ask – how do we stop this madness?!

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Here are some ways to increase your odds of beating the crud and to help protect yourself and others.

Soap, water, repeat

The spreading of any sort of virus begins and ends with hand washing (or lack thereof).

And yes we know – that sounds ridiculously obvious, right? It’s no secret that washing your hands is important. But you’d be surprised by how many people skimp when it comes down to this habit. (One study found that only 5% of people wash their hands properly!)

“The way that viruses transfer from person to person and place to place isn’t usually because you got coughed on by someone who’s sick,” explains pediatric infectious disease expert Frank Esper, MD. “Instead, someone usually coughs on their hands and goes on to touch something. Then someone else touches that thing with their hands and their hands end up in their mouth – along with the virus.”

One of the best things you can do to protect yourself during cold and flu season (and really anytime of the year) is to break the transmission cycle by routinely washing your hands.

Advertisement

Also remember that any virus you might already have has the potential to spread to others in the same fashion. So washing your hands every time you cough, or every time that you’re interacting with someone, preferably before you interact with them, is the best thing that you can do.

It’s one of the reasons why doctors always wash their hands before they see a patient and again right afterwards, Dr. Esper says.

Does the hand washing rule apply with RSV and children too?

Good hand hygiene is incredibly important when it comes to babies and small children too, especially when it comes to helping prevent the spread of RSV.

But often times the average two-year-old can’t wash their hands very well – let alone have the coordination or attention span for it. This is where the introduction of alcohol-based rubs, especially for the younger age groups, works well.

It’s also important to understand the impact of hand washing for those around young children.

Advertisement

“When your child is home from school with a runny nose or cough, a lot of times the grandparents or other family members will come over to watch them,” says Dr. Esper. “It’s very important to make sure that everyone who is interacting with the kids knows to wash their hands.”

It’s also a good idea to talk to children about not touching their noses or rubbing their eyes. Most of the time it’s still going to be typical two-year-old behavior –but it helps to start educating them about it when they’re young.

How to avoid getting sick

If you’re still trying to tough out cold and flu season without becoming a victim (or looking for tips on not getting sick again), follow these guidelines:

Also be sure to tread carefully when it comes to guzzling down vitamin C drinks and pills. The jury is still out whether or not these products can actually help you kick a cold or flu faster.

Related Articles

crowd of people at music concert
February 5, 2024
What Constitutes a ‘Superspreader Event’?

Any large social gathering — from a family birthday party to an indoor music concert — has the potential to spread serious infection

Teacup of tea and plate of toast
February 2, 2024
What To Eat, Drink and Avoid When You Have the Stomach Flu

Start slowly with clear fluids, and then move to bland, easy-to-digest foods

Male with eyes closed sitting hunched over, pinching area between their eyes
January 29, 2024
Headache and Fatigue: 11 Possible Causes That Can Trigger Both

Many factors, like dehydration, a cold or even your medication, can result in these common symptoms

Sick person on couch using tissue on nose with medication bottles on coffee table
January 19, 2024
How To Know if It’s COVID-19, a Cold or Allergies

Symptoms can overlap and be hard to distinguish, but there are some telltale differences

Close-up of hands in lab gloves sorting vials and covid-19 blood sample
January 17, 2024
Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 Variants

Just like the flu, COVID-19 will continue to evolve every year

Adult female on couch, coughing into crook of arm, holding thermometer
January 15, 2024
Prepping for Flurona: When COVID-19 and the Flu Strike at the Same Time

It’s best to treat flu-like symptoms as if you have COVID-19

three bars of castille soap in front of three bottles of castille liquid soap
January 7, 2024
Is Castile Soap a Cure-All Cleanser?

This olive oil-based soap is generally mild and safe when diluted

female with fingers pressing on bridge of nose in distress
January 4, 2024
Got a Sinus Infection That Won’t Quit? When To Worry

Give it seven to 10 days, but if your symptoms linger or get worse, it’s time to see a healthcare provider

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes

Ad