Wash Hands Frequently and Correctly
To prevent the spread of infection, hand washing is essential, says Dr. Karron, "particularly if you yourself are not feeling well, or if you're caring for a sick child." Wash your hands periodically, but especially before and after you eat, before and after you prepare food, and whenever you have touched something that might be contaminated. If someone in your house has a respiratory virus, almost anything could be contaminated, so wash even more often. If you know you've touched something germ-laden, make a special effort not to touch your mucous membranes, or another person, until you get to the sink and wash.
The tricky part, of course, is convincing everyone else in the family to wash their hands, too. Studies show that women wash their hands more often than men, and children ... well, they aren't known for their random acts of cleanliness. Don't give up, though: An ounce of nagging is worth a pound of cure.
Wash your hands correctly. The rinse-and-run method won't get rid of viruses, so when you wash, do it right. Wet your hands under running water, use liquid or bar soap, and rub your hands together vigorously. It's the rubbing action, not just the soap itself that dislodges the germs. Scrub all surfaces, including fingernails, for 15 to 20 seconds. (You can pass the time by singing "Happy Birthday" twice.) Use warm water since it's more effective than cold water at removing the dirt and germs trapped in the body oils on your hands. Dry your hands thoroughly and, if possible, use the towel to turn off the faucet.
When hand washing isn't an option, use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer, rubbing it into all the surfaces of your hands until the gel is dry. As a bonus, says Dr. Karron, hand washing is "really good for preventing all kinds of infections," not just cold and flu.