Dear Heloise: Working in a pediatric practice, one of the most common questions is: “How did I catch my child’s cold, pink eye, sore throat, diarrhea, etc.?” Most people do not realize how easy it is to CATCH AN ILLNESS or how easy it is to not catch the same illness.

Liberally using bleach or disinfectant wipes or spray can reduce germ transmission tremendously. Wiping down doorknobs, refrigerator and microwave door handles, the toilet handle — anything children touch after they cough, sneeze, vomit or wipe their noses will help reduce transmission of germs.

The same goes for older kids in college. Their immune systems are developed, but they forget what they learned in kindergarten. Wash hands, and do not share drinking cups. The older kids pass around strep throat like you would not believe, not to mention other serious illnesses.

Since you have a large audience, you can help in prevention of colds. Thanks. -- A Reader, Austin, Texas

I’m “spreading” your words of wisdom against germs. Cold weather is coming up, so please wash your hands, and don’t spread germs! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: After reading your winter hints, I thought I would add a couple of mine. When my children were small, we lived in the mid-Atlantic area, where we could be caught in bad winter weather. I always kept a warm (wool or down) blanket, water or juice boxes, diapers and nonperishable food in the car, just in case. -- Judy A. in San Antonio


Dear Heloise: I read in your column about raising the water level in the washing machine to help clean it. Just slowly reverse the water-level selector, and the water will start to run again. With the lid up, it is easy to view the level. -- Mel in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Mel, it depends on the washer, but this will work with some machines. This is one way to keep the washer clean. Do you have stubborn laundry stains to deal with? Well, I have a lot of answers in my eight-page Heloise’s Handy Stain Guide for Clothing pamphlet. A few of the stains covered are lipstick, chewing gum and pet stains. For a copy, just send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (65 cents) envelope to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Some old wives’ tales of treating stains don’t work today, but here’s one that still does: Rinse black clothing and stockings in clear water to which a couple of glugs of vinegar have been added. The vinegar removes soap residue that can cause dullness. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Here is how I eliminate guesswork when trying to find the perfect gift: When someone mentions something he or she would like, I write it down. When gift time comes, I buy the perfect item! -- L.M., Topeka, Kan.

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

2012, King Features Syndicate