7 Tips to Stop Germs From Spreading and Shorten The Duration of Coughs and Colds

posted by Andrea | 01/24/2020

how to shorten a cold

Although we are generally quite healthy around our house, our kids have been hit hard with stuffy noses, runny noses, and crazy coughs over the last 2 months. Some days, it felt like they were simply passing it from person to person within our home! 

At one point, I went to Meijer to restock our children’s meds and the whole shelf was wiped clean — clearly there are other families struggling right now too! 

If you’ve been hit with colds, coughs, etc. you’ll want to keep reading!

The 7 simple tips below are the things we do to stop germs from spreading and shorten the duration of coughs, colds, sore throats, and more. 

Of course, they aren’t magic and they don’t always work — but more often than not, we’ve had really good luck with these simple tips. I hope they will work for you too! 

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1. Implement Strict Hand-Washing Rules:

We are very diligent about washing our hands whenever we come inside or come home from running errands (and of course, after using the bathroom) but we don’t always wash them as often throughout the day. 

So in the winter months, when we’re inside a lot, we tend to wash our hands less (even with all the coughing and sneezing). 

Over the last few months, I’ve been a stickler for hand-washing — having everyone wash their hands before any type of snack or meal, after they blow their noses or sneeze, and sometimes just because.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen me mention more about the new goat milk soap we’ve been using (from Bend Soap Company). It’s been an adjustment to use bar soap again, but the kids are having fun with it and I love that the ingredients are all-natural. 

NOTE: We use the Tea Tree or All Shield soap in the bathrooms and kitchen as they have natural antibacterial properties.  

washing hands in the bathroom

2. Drink LOTS of Water:

I usually let the kids have more salty snacks when they have colds, mainly because it gets them to drink lots and lots of water. (Veggie straws, popcorn, pretzels, and Goldfish crackers are some of their favorites.)

I also have “special water bottles” reserved for when I want them to drink extra water. It doesn’t really matter what type of bottle it is, just as long as it’s not the one they normally use — the kids get so excited about using something new that they drink so much more! 

kids water bottles

3. Wipe Down Door Knobs and Handles 

I often give the kids sanitizing wipes and tell them to go around the house wiping down doorknobs, light switches, stair banisters, remotes, and any other places they regularly put their hands. They think this is great fun and willingly help. Of course, I’m not sure how well things get cleaned, but it has to be better than nothing! 

I also regularly wipe down all bathroom faucets and toilets (I do this all the time, not just when people are sick).

We love the Seventh Generation wipes — it’s all I’ve been using for years now. 

seventh generation disinfectant wipes

4. Wash Toys, Stuffed Animals, and Blankets:

Soon after I hear sniffs and coughs, I gather up the toys that tend to go in their mouths and give them a good washing (play food, musical instruments, the doctor’s kit, whistles, etc.)

I usually wash as much as I can in the dishwasher (on the top rack in mesh garment bags) but sometimes the kids like to “help” so I use the sink or the bathtub to wash a bunch of toys all at one time.

washing kids toys

5. Wash the Bedding:

Personally, I feel like I sleep better in clean sheets, and while I usually only wash sheets once a month, I do it more often when kids are sick (note: I wash pillowcases every week).

I also wash any stuffed animals, pillowcases, and their special blankets in hot water and a little bleach.

baskets filled with clean laundry

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6. Reorganize the Medicine Cabinet:

Since we (thankfully) don’t get sick all that often, it’s not unusual to find expired items in our medicine cabinet — despite my efforts to stay on top of the various items inside!.

I’ve found that whenever a cold hits our house, it’s a great reminder to purge and reorganize the medicine cabinet.

It only takes a few minutes for me to toss out any expired medicine and make note of new items I might need to stock up on (both for adults and kids).

NOTE: Here’s how we organize our medicine cabinet. And here’s a clever way to organize medicine when you’re traveling

Also, I’m regularly asked about the “best” or “right way to dispose of expired meds. Here’s the information I know…

  • Use this map (mobile friend) or check out The American Medicine Chest to find a prescription dropoff location near you
  • If you can’t find a close enough dropoff location, mix the prescription with an undesirable substance (used coffee grounds, dirt, kitty litter) and place it in a sealed bag in the trash. 
  • Never throw any type of drug away in the actual packaging.
  • Remove labels from prescription bottles to prevent unauthorized refills
  • In general, flushing meds down the toilet is not recommended, except if your drug is one on this list

medicine cabinet

 

7. Clear Your Schedule:

Obviously not super simple (especially if you work outside the home), but whenever my kids are under the weather, I’ve realized there is almost no point in trying to run errands, get out and about, or do anything “extra” around the house. The kids are so much fussier, and I just end up frazzled if I try to do too much while still caring for them.

So I clear my schedule and prepare for lots of time on the couch, lounging in our PJ’s, reading books, watching Netflix shows and movies… and maybe even snoozing a little bit (if I’m lucky!)

sick kids watching a movie on the couch

Unfortunately, I can’t completely stop the germs from entering our home; but these 7 simple tips have really helped to shorten our children’s coughs and colds over the past few years.

I had to laugh a couple of weeks ago when James said, “I’m sure glad Moms can’t get sick, otherwise who would do everything for us and take care of us!”

Let’s just cross our fingers and hope this mom stays healthy for the remainder of the cold and flu season!

What are your best tips to ward off coughs and colds this time of year?

how to shorten a cold

Filed under: LifeFamilyChildrenHealthGoing Green

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39 comments

  1. Samantha

    01/28/2020

    Going outside for a brisk walk here in Canada EVERYDAY, no matter how cold the weather is seems to zap the bugs out of our systems! I also will open windows on occasion during winter to get some fresh air in the house!

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  2. Denise Rambo

    01/24/2020

    This comment is not about this post – but about the additional content in today’s email. Since there doesn’t seem to be a way to comment on email content, I thought I’d post here. I clicked through to the NutriMill website using the link in your email and found that the mixer is NOT on sale for $129 as you mentioned. The price is listed as $199. Just through I’d give you a heads-up since I’m sure I’m not the only person who want to tell you about it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Denise!
    Any time you want to respond to one of my emails, just hit “reply” and you can email me directly! That’s one of the huge benefits of using an email list versus a blog post 🙂
    Unfortunately, one of the “negatives” of an email list is that I can not easily change things that are “wrong”. I tripled checked the Nutrimill deal again last night and it was still $129 — then this morning (after the email went out) it bumped back up to $199 🙁
    I contacted the company to see if they’d be willing to offer a coupon for my readers but they said: “no, because it was an error on their website”. So sorry!

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    Natalia Gramada Reply:

    Wow! Sorry, Denise!
    I’m glad I bought it back then when you (Andrea) first mentioned it (or when I 1st read about it). It was my Christmas present to myself 🙂
    I’ve got it for $129, with all the “bells and whistles”. I’ve used it several times already and I’m liking it more and more…

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    Andrea Reply:

    Glad to hear you are enjoying the mixer Natalia! I’ll have to keep an eye out for another great deal!

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  3. Kim

    01/24/2020

    How do you sanitize screens without damaging them? Kindles, iPads, phones?

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    Andrea Reply:

    I just use a cloth similar to a Norwex cloth (but not as expensive!) they will disinfect with just a little water (which doesn’t harm the screens)

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    Jenny Reply:

    I use disinfectant wipes and have for years without any damage. I am a registered nurse. This is what we do at the clinic, too. Vinegar is NOT a disinfectant despite what some may say. Wiping with it or water MAY help remove some surface dirt or germs, but does not kill viruses, bacteria, etc.

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    Linda Reply:

    I put a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel and wipe screens with that. I also use this for remotes and telephones.

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  4. Chris

    11/12/2015

    I’ve relied on natural remedies for years now (when my husband was diagnosed with cancer….sadly,he passed away 3 years ago). Essential oils and saline nasal rinses in the shower really work! I would say the number one prevention is hand washing. I work in a corporate environment and I am astonished at the number of women who either don’t wash their hands or don’t wash them correctly after using the ladies room!! Simply putting soap on your hands and then rinsing with water is not washing your hands. Put enough soap on your hands then rub, rub, rub while saying the alphabet or singing happy birthday in your head, then rinse! Love your blog Andrea! Your children are precious!

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    Andrea Reply:

    So sorry to hear about your husband Chris.

    Thanks for your tips and your kind words. I’ve successfully used the saline nasal drops on James and Simon — Nora, of course, won’t let me touch her with them!

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  5. Nicole

    11/12/2015

    I have recently developed a love affair with essential oils. They made my 4 year old’s latest cold so much easier! There are all kinds of websites for safe essential oil use with kids. I have an inexpensive diffuser in each child’s room and they love them! I don’t believe they’re the miracle cure that some people do, but they make the house (and the kids) more pleasant. 🙂

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  6. Lauri

    11/12/2015

    I strongly recommend Qore 24 . It is a mechanical kill type of hand sanitizer and lasts 24 hours.. No alcohol either. I found it on a trip to Arizona and now I can find it in California where I live.

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    Tara Reply:

    Thanks for posting about Qore 24 Lauri! That looks amazing and I refuse to use other hand sanitizers because of their toxicity and the triclosan. 24 hour virus/bacteria protection is SUPER appealing right about now. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    well, I’ve never heard of this. I’ll have to look into it!

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  7. Chris K in Wisconsin

    11/12/2015

    Hi, Andrea! I was happy to see someone mentioned the toothbrush replacement! For adults, too, when they are sick. So many people forget to do that. I still clean doorknobs in and out of the bathroom during the day when anyone is ill, (and our “kids” are 42 and 37 and don’t live with us), but we forget to do that for ourselves. I also think that it is important to build up the immunity for our kids. We can’t keep them in a bubble, but need to be careful, especially during this time of the year. I hope you are able to find some rubber gloves for sweet Nora. Bet that would be an amazing BD gift that lots of little girls wouldn’t appreciate…..but I am sure Nora would!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, nora would love the rubber gloves. So far, I haven’t found any, but I’ll keep looking!

    And yes, immunity is good… but sick little James is not 🙂 Here’s hoping the germs stay away this winter!

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  8. Sarah

    11/12/2015

    Sounds like you have a great system for when the sniffles hit. Anytime we have a sniffle cold etc I run out and buy elderberry syrup. It gives the immune system a boost and helps dry out stuff. The taste isn’t too offensive, but you can hide pretty much anything in blueberry juice.

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    Carol Lorette Reply:

    I drink a cup or 2 of elderberry tea every day. I also keep “Sambucol” (elderberry) syrup, lozenges and tablets on hand. At the first sign of sniffles I start to take the tablets. I haven’t been sick in a long time. This product also has one for children too.
    I also wash my hands many times a day and wipe all door knobs, light switches, taps, etc every day.

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    Andrea Reply:

    honestly, I think the BIGGEST factor is just washing my hands very regularly. Any time I plan to eat or drink anything, I was my hands! It’s not “foolproof” but it works pretty well and it’ss simple!

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  9. JJ

    11/12/2015

    Sorry to hear the kiddos were sick, but wow! You have a great plan of attack when they are. I love the idea of baths in the middle of the day. And I completely agree about clean bed sheets! We also love the Zarbee’s immune booster for kids. It tastes horrible, but you can mix in a smoothie or other foods. I feel like it really works. Because of your other post, I’ve been more aware of having the kids wash their hands more frequently. I wash mine all the time, but it’s important for them to as well. Great reminder!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay — hand washing is always a good thing to get into the habit of doing. It’s so simple yet can really save a lot of illnesses from spreading around your home!

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  10. Melanie G

    11/12/2015

    Thank you for this! I wish I’d had it a week ago when our 9 month old daughter (our first) came down with her first cold 😉

    I knew I should wash the toys but figured I should wait until the snot-fest had subsided. Next time, I’ll wash them in the beginning.

    It really is heartbreaking when a baby’s stuffy nose makes it hard to eat! And it’s been stressful for us because our daughter isn’t a great eater, anyway. One bonus – eating solids is easier than milk, so I think this stuffy nose may finally have pushed her over the hump into eating other things more regularly.

    One thing we’ve found helpful this week are Boogie Wipes, which a friend gave us with high recommendations. E hates having her nose cleared with the snot-sucker (can’t say I blame her), but the saline wipes are gentle and softer than a tissue or handkerchief, and work really well. I will stock up on Maty’s next time, too.

    Unfortunately, I did catch E’s cold – I’d love for Nora’s sweet statement to be true!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Booo… sorry that you got the cold too 🙁
    And thanks for the reminder about the Boogie Wipes. We had those when Nora was a baby (also as a gift) and I think I might still have 1 unopened pack in the changing table drawers. It might be time to resurrect that for the upcoming cold/flu season!

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  11. April

    11/12/2015

    I understand how hard it can be when a “high needs” child gets a cold. My daughter used to over-react as well. She would get so angry with her nose for being stuffy and running that she would punch it. It seems a bit humorous now, but certainly not at the time. My kids were relatively healthy until my daughter started preschool, then of course she came in contact with a lot of colds, and brought them home to her brother.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — Nora has actually slapped herself in the face for the same reason (and then, of course, started crying because it hurt to hit her own face!)

    Also, yes, I’ve noticed that Nora has had more runny noses since school started. It’s annoying — but there’s really no way around it. Her school is cleaned well — but there are lots of kids there and kids are gross! I figure she’s just building up her immunities… however, it would be nice if she didn’t keep bringing the germs home with her!

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    Brandette W. Reply:

    Yes, Andrea, the start of little one’s in school seems to bring on all the nasties! Our son just started school this year and since starting the end of July, we were getting sick about every other week with colds….no joke! He would get it and of course share it with either Mommy or Daddy.

    I have been told that this happens when kids first start school since they haven’t been exposed to a lot yet and it does help build their immune systems in the long run. It’s just so rough at first!

    Worst part is the schools here in the Midwest where I live only allow 7 unexcused days. Heck, if I would have kept my son home when I really felt he should have, he would have used all 7 days the first few months!! I understand the reason for the rule, but, I HATE it! I hate it because that means all parents are sending their kids to school visibly sick, infecting all the others and bringing it home. It makes me mad. Before my son started school, we always stayed home and out of public places (barring a doctor’s visit of course) when he was sick. I don’t want to catch it from others, I certainly don’t want my son to be the reason others get sick. Now I have no choice. One of the worst feelings is sending your little one off to school knowing they don’t feel well, but they must go. It’s not bad enough to warrant the expense of a doctor’s visit when they can’t give them anything unless there is an infection, but bad enough that they are tired and definitely don’t feel well. And this is just in Kindergarten so far…..ugh. LOL

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — I’m not sure if Nora’s preschool has any policy for sickness or being absent for any other reason.

    Fun fact… I only missed ONE day of school in my entire life for being sick! Hopefully my kiddos will follow in their mommy’s healthy footsteps!

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  12. Liane

    11/12/2015

    One little bit of advice for preventing viruses from entering your home. Where I live there are a lot of recent immigrants who have not caught on to things like coughing in your sleeve rather than your hand or using the sanitizing wipes at stores. I’m not being judgemental here, just saying what I observe on a daily basis. I also see lots of sick kids out and about (you know, the ones with the telltale upper lip…).

    So my defense is yes by all means use the free cart wipes when you go in a store! But my secret trick is to use another on your way out before you touch your keys, car door handle, steering wheel etc. Never use the stylus at the checkstand — use your finger. And never use the pen chained to the checkstand, either. If you have to write a check bring your own pen. Then, use sanitizer – usually the checkers have some. Think about all the things you have touched in the store! Never eat anything in a store, like a grape to see if they are yummy. Don’t open food bags and dip in to them with your dirty mitts, either!

    Lest anyone think I am paranoid, let me tell you that as part of my public health training I had an assignment to culture and identify unknown pathogens found out in the wild. I was shocked by how many bugs I found in grocery stores, on drinking fountains, etc. — these being bacteria, not viruses, of course, but that eye opening experience taught me that public places are germy!

    So my best piece of advice is shop with your eyes open, keep your children from touching things that others may have touched, and don’t let them eat at the store. We always tell our kids to wash up before dinner and after using the toilet. Why on earth would we handle dirty money or knobs and handles and then hand them food?

    My belief is that if we do all we can to prevent our little ones from becoming sick using simple methods like hand washing and sanitizers it will make it a lot easier for all. Remember, they say that viruses we get on our hands get a hold on us from us rubbing our eyes and noses. So since kids never remember to not do that, keep those little hands clean.

    One more thing to launder when you are doing the stuffed animals and toys is mittens and gloves! And if anyone does get a cold replace the toothbrush they use.

    Most of these tips came out of my public health nursing education but was bolstered when I had a family member on chemotherapy, where a common cold was not simply a nuisance but could become a deadly infection.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh my word… why have I never thought about the whole toothbrush thing!!! I just replaced both their toothbrushes. Thanks!

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  13. Jen T

    11/12/2015

    Oh, that picture of Simon with the glassy eyes is SO pathetic 🙁 Glad everyone is feeling better!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I know… and that was on his first birthday. It was really the only time he was actually sick, but it really is so sad to look at!

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  14. Amy

    11/12/2015

    I’d never heard of Maty’s natural products before! Thanks, hopefully we won’t need them….haha, but I’m going to check them out:)

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, hopefully you won’t need them 🙂

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  15. Emily

    11/12/2015

    Haha Nora! Yes, mom can never get sick!! 😉 Great tips Andrea! I always love clean sheets when we’re sick. I’ve been using essential oils for a couple years now. Have found those to be a great way to relieve symptoms. I’ve been running a diffuser with an immune booster for the past few days as we seem to be fighting the sniffles and coughs too. Hope everyone is feeling better again!!

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  16. Kellie

    11/12/2015

    Bwahahahahahaha I rolled at Norah’s comment! She’s such a sweet little girl! Thanks for such a helpful (and timely) post. I think colds are about to kick in over here…

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    Andrea Reply:

    Nora is always good for a few laughs 🙂 Good luck with cold season in your house Kellie!

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  17. Paulette

    11/12/2015

    Andrea, you’re a wonderful mother and Nora is an amazing child. I’m always stunned at her comments! I think my third child was somewhat high needs like Nora. Too bad that in those days, resources to assist with my questions, frustrations and struggles were pretty much NIL (she’s 37). Enjoy your blog so much.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Paulette! It is very helpful to have so much information available these days. The internet has its downfalls, but there are sure benefits when it comes to massive amounts of information and help at your fingertips!

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