How to avoid getting sick when your flatmate is

Flatmates Team


As cities across the nation are beginning to open up, we’re being warned that Covid-19 case numbers will rise. Along with them, we can expect increasing transmission of common or garden colds, viruses, and the flu too. Preventing yourself getting sick is set to be a top priority this summer.

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Now if you’re one of the vast majority — fully vaccinated against Covid-19, that is — you may not be too worried about suffering with the disease itself. But none of us wants to be bed ridden with the sniffles when the weather’s getting warmer and there’s actual fun to be had for the first time in two years. We all want to stay healthy and well, so we can go out and spend time with those friends we’ve only seen on FaceTime for what feels like forever!

So what if your flatmate gets sick? With anything!? Here are 7 easy ways to avoid catching the lurgy yourself.

1. Wash your hands

We all learned this with Covid-19, and it works just as well for all those less dangerous bugs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water when your flatmate is sick, to prevent the transmission of germs to your eyes, nose or mouth — or from place to place around your home. And of course, remind them to wash their hands too. Don’t forget: 20 seconds’ washing is the ideal timeframe for properly clean hands.


You might also keep the sanitiser around (in your car, for example) for the moments when you’re together and hand-washing isn’t possible. It can also be handy for a flatmate who’s laid up on the couch, sneezing into tissues and then handling the remote.

2. Remind the person who’s sick to sneeze into their elbow

More great advice that originated with the good old WHO, having your flatmate avoid sneezing without covering their nose and mouth is key. Remind them to sneeze into their elbow — or a tissue or handkerchief if they have one handy. The last thing you want is them sneezing their germs across the room and inadvertently infecting the whole, otherwise healthy household.


3. Wipe down shared surfaces

Bathroom and kitchen counters are great places for germs to spread, so to prevent that, make sure you wipe them down regularly with hot soapy water or disinfectant. As we learned with Covid-19, door handles are worth cleaning too and don’t forget shared spaces like coffee tables, outdoor furniture and the fridge door. Since they’re sick, your flatmate is unlikely to have the energy to do this themselves, so make the time to do it, for the health of everyone in your home.


4. Don’t share towels

If you have shared hand towels in the kitchen or bathroom, throw them in the wash and use paper towel until your flatmate is back in good health. Damp towels are great harbours for bugs, and it’s difficult to prevent yourself picking them up if you’re all sharing the same hand towels. In the kitchen, where you’re washing your hands, drying them and then preparing food, there’s a direct risk of transmission, so better to be safe than sorry: grab some paper towel for the duration of your flatmate’s illness.


5. Keep your distance

Okay, we’re not suggesting you treat your flattie like Typhoid Mary, but avoiding snuggling up on the couch together for a movie night might be wise. Do they need you to get throat lozenges and cough medicine from the chemist? Go right ahead! Do they want a cup of hot soup? Cook one up! Just make sure that you’re not getting within cough or sneeze distance (remember those visualisations from Covid-19 of how far our breath travels when we speak?). On a similar note, keeping rooms well ventilated can also help you avoid catching your flatmate’s bug. Take the window-seat is our advice!


6. Encourage a doctor’s visit if it’s needed

Some of us will hold out as long as humanly possible before going to the doctor — even when it’s clearly needed. Trouble is, the longer your flatmate spreads their germs around, the greater your risk of getting their lurgy. So if cold- or flu-like symptoms go on for more than a few days, recommend a visit to the GP. Offer to take them if they need a ride or some moral support. Try a bulk-billing GP if they’re low on cash.


The key here is that a bug that lasts more than a long weekend may need treatment in the form of either antibiotics (if it’s bacterial) or close monitoring (if it’s anything else), lest it turn into something more serious. A quick trip to the doctor today could see your flatmate back on their feet fast, but if they put it off, they could be out of action for weeks — or more.

7. Keep an eye on your own health

While your flatmate’s unwell, it’s important to keep an eye on your own health. A healthy body typically has a strong immune system, so try to keep yourself hydrated, well-fed and rested. Do a little self-care, don’t book in too many post-lockdown catch-ups and follow the tips we’ve outlined here. Hopefully, you’ll avoid getting sick and prevent your flatmate passing their illness to anyone else too.



Flatmates Team