Ask Well: How Do I Avoid Catching Cold or Flu From My Sick Partner?


Those shared cups in the bathroom for tooth-brushing can also be a transmission source, added Dr. Susan Rehm, vice chairwoman of the infectious disease department at the Cleveland Clinic.

“Make sure tissues and other things that might have secretions on them are taken care of promptly and without someone else picking them up,” she suggested.

If a spouse catches the flu, being vaccinated is the best protection, Dr. Rehm said. Some doctors will prescribe family members an antiviral drug for added protection.

Dr. Rehm said that whenever she’s worried about being exposed to illness, she concentrates on the basics that she can control, such as eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. “Potentially that will help me withstand the exposure, or at least put me in a better place to get through it.”

Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases researcher at the Mayo Clinic, said it’s important to remember “respiratory etiquette” when you are sick, including coughing and sneezing into the crook of your elbow rather than your hands. He said he tends to isolate himself when he’s sick, keeping as far away as possible from other household members.

Families are often exposed to germs around the same time, so it’s common to have household infections overlap, he noted.

Of course, if your illness starts a few days after your spouse’s, you know who’s likely to blame.

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