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Stop Those Germs!

A Separate Peace

Separate personal items. Cups, toothbrushes, and towels can harbor germs. Replace a child's toothbrush after he's had a cold or the flu, and especially after strep throat. Don't share cups, and wash them regularly in very hot water -- or use disposable ones.

When you wash your hands, soap and water remove only some germs; the rest are rubbed off when you dry them on a towel, says Dr. Stone. Now, is that a nice thing to share?

At our house, to avoid inadvertent borrowing, we color-code the bath towels -- one color for each of our three kids -- and launder them often in hot water.

Reconsider indoor play spaces. Some indoor playgrounds are carefully maintained (toys are washed frequently with soapy water); others aren't. It's tough to tell. If the call of the indoor jungle gym beckons, follow these rules: 1) Eat first, play later. 2) Wash hands before and after play. 3) If a clearly sick child arrives, leave.

Of course, no amount of vigilance will prevent you all from ever getting sick. But these measures might make this winter a little healthier. It may be normal for kids to catch six to ten colds a year, but it's easier if it's closer to six.