Surviving the House of Sick: 5 Tips to Get You Through Cold and Flu Season

We are so desperate to stay healthy we are implementing face masks with every member of our household. Even the baby!

Our house was hit hard this year. It started around Halloween and is still haunting us in the New Year. I don’t think we have made it a full week without someone in our house coming down with illness. Friends have stopped visiting, and when they see us out in town, they are sure to keep their distance.

I don’t blame them.

I’ve put our house under quarantine and have drafted a letter to Base Family Housing requesting new quarters. Surely our house is contaminated (or cursed!) and the best course of action at this point is to burn it to the ground and move to a new home. I am willing to forego all my belongings if that means we can continue with a clean bill of health for the rest of the year.   

I posted this sign on our door mostly as a joke, but also to warn guests to keep their distance during cold and flu season.

I keep hearing on the news that this will be one of the worst flu seasons yet, and it is not even close to being over. I am currently stationed in Japan, where the density of people per square mile is ten times greater than that of the United States. Therefore, my chances of meeting multiple people with a cold or flu on a daily basis are extremely high. I’m keeping my pantry stocked with cans of chicken noodle soup and boxes of tissues for a little while longer and following these tips in order to survive.

Tips for survival:

  1. Be nice to your neighbors.

If you feel yourself getting sick or have been diagnosed with an illness, please be kind to your neighbors and stay home. Do not go to work and do not go to the commissary. Everyone on base shops at the commissary, so if you go there when you are sick, the chances of ten more people catching what you have are extremely high.

I love that some of the Americans stationed here in Japan have adapted the Japanese custom of wearing face masks when sick. Though it does not fully eliminate the spreading of germs it does reduce it significantly.

Fun Facts about face masks:

  • Nose blowing in public is considered rude in Japan, so wearing a mask hides a runny nose.
  • The most common reason for wearing a face mask is to prevent hay fever from tree pollen in the spring.
  • Wearing face masks have become so popular that some people wear them like an accessory.
  • There are even face masks marketed as “sexy” and for dating.
We are so desperate to stay healthy we are implementing face masks with every member of our household. Even the baby!
  1. Sterilize EVERYTHING!

Up until now, I have followed the mom philosophy that a little dirt helps build the immune system and wiping my kid’s snot on my sleeve is not that big of a deal. Then I went to the ER three times in one week with a 105 degree fever, flu symptoms, and double pneumonia. I honestly thought I was dying. I would not wish that kind of sickness on my worst enemies.

Now I wash everything my kids touch, especially after they return from daycare. Our house smelled so clean (of bleach) the other day that my husband was concerned he walked into a crime scene. I am no longer taking chances! Anything that has been touched gets washed at the end of the day (or multiple times a day).

  1. Stay hydrated.

As much as I would like to live on only coffee, that kind of lifestyle is not good during cold and flu season. Our bodies need water to work properly. It is not only important to stay hydrated to stay healthy and prevent illness, but also once you are sick it is imperative to drink fluids so you do not end up dehydrated and in the hospital with an IV in your arm.

I bought my daughter a cute Minnie Mouse cup to help get her excited about drinking more water throughout the day, but my main motive was to keep her from drinking out of my cup and getting me sick constantly.

  1. Ask for help and accept help.

If you are sick, please ask for help! Call a friend and have them pick up your groceries from the store and drop them at your door, so you do not have to leave your house. When I had the flu, I even hired a babysitter to come over and watch my kids downstairs so I could sleep a few hours upstairs. It was the best decision I ever made.

Since I did not leave the house for almost four weeks, friends started to ask where I was after a while. I had so many offers for help once they found out I was sick.

I really wish I had let more people bring me things and help with the kids. I was being stupid and stubborn and thought I could take care of everything on my own. I couldn’t, and it prolonged the time I was sick. Please let your friends help you!

  1. Be open to extra screen time for the kids.

I try to limit my kids’ screen time on a regular basis, but when I am sick or they are sick, I let them watch as much as they want. It is an easy way to keep them still and quiet. It is especially helpful when one of them is vomiting every five minutes and you don’t want them getting it all over the house. Some of their favorite shows from Netflix include Bo on the Go, Word Party, and Sofia the First.

I have started receiving weird, out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for keeping my family healthy from friends and strangers because we have been sick for so long. Some of them include: sleep outside for three nights or open all the doors and windows in my house to let cold air in, gargle tap water three times a day, and eat raw garlic daily.

Have you tried any of these? What are some ways you keep your family healthy during cold and flu season?


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Mallory is the wife of a U.S. Marine and mother of two. She is a stay-at-home-mom who proudly hangs her Ph.D. diploma in every house the military moves her to. While she looks forward to the day she can be back working and researching in a lab, she cherishes every moment she gets to watch her children grow and support her husband’s career. This is certainly not the life she dreamed of, but it has become more rewarding and fulfilling than anything she could have imagined. She and her family are currently stationed in Japan and love every minute of it.