So your significant other, who you live with, is sick. She or he is coughing, sneezing and getting their sickly juices on everything from the couch you sit on together to the door knob you use to go to the bathroom, not to mention the toilet seat.
A) Buy a hazmat suit
B) Break up with them
C) Declare martial law and set up a quarantine
D) Tell them you’re going to pick up some cough syrup from the drug store and never come back
The correct answer of course is: All of the above. Because you can never be too careful.
I’m kidding, relax. In fact, I don’t believe in keeping my distance when my girlfriend is sick. My method is leaning into the sickness and helping her get better — after all, we’re talking about the common cold or the flu, not ebola.
That said, most of us, ideally speaking, would prefer to avoid getting sick ourselves, so barring the extreme measures above — that I should admit are the best, most efficient ways of ensuring that you don’t get sick too — what’s a good S.O. to do when their partner is a sick-y?
First and foremost, you should know what you’re up against. “When people sneeze, cough or even talk, they’re spreading little droplets that can contain influenza and other viruses,” Romney M. Humphries, section chief of clinical microbiology in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told SELF. “These droplets become airborne and then settle on surfaces. Depending on what virus or bacteria a person has, you may not even need to interact with them to catch their germs in a shared space. Some bacteria and viruses, like the flu, for example, can survive on hard surfaces for at least a day.”
So how then can you best protect yourself from these “tiny droplets” of sickly doom? Per nearly every piece of advice on the internet, wash your hands. “In addition to all the times you should wash them anyway, such as after you use the bathroom, you should also wash them whenever you touch things that sick family members have been touching,” reports Very Well Health. “If you don’t have soap and water available, use hand sanitizing gel or wipes.”
Additionally, Very Well Health recommends not sharing cups; sleeping in separate rooms (or at least facing away from each other); and to, of course, avoid cuddling and/or kissing. On the latter count, according to a report in Elite Daily, kissing someone with the common cold or a respiratory infection is a sure-fire way to get yourself sick. “Because transmission is via respiratory droplets, avoid kissing your partner while they’re actively having symptoms,” Celine Thum, a medical director at Paradocs Worldwide, told the site.
As far as sex goes, she says that while the sick person isn’t going to have much of an appetite for making the sex, on the off-chance that they do, having sick sex isn’t necessarily going to give you the sniffles. “Theoretically, colds aren’t spread through sexual contact, but being in close proximity to an individual puts you at increased risk for coming into contact with a virus,” Thum told Elite Daily.
But again, barring a complete quarantine and/or donning a hazmat suit that I really, genuinely hope you don’t have hanging in your closet, there’s always the chance that you’ll get sick when the S.O. you live with is sick. So do what I do and just roll the dice, hold your breath and don’t turn into a weirdo germaphobe. The sickness will pass, but how you behave during these trying times — when not only your immune system, but also your ability to be a supportive partner, is being tested — will haunt your relationship if you suddenly forget how to be decent.