Every mom and dad knows as the days get shorter, and the wind gets colder, out comes the cold medicine and the thermometers. In the northern hemisphere, fall and winter mean cold and flu season, and all those germs are hard on little bodies. Keep your kids healthier this sickness season with these seven tips.
1. Keep up on preventative medicine
The best way to fight a cold or flu is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. The Center for Disease Control recommends all children six months and older receive the flu vaccine each year. Also, make sure your children are going for well-child checks at the appropriate times.
2. Wash hands often
It's such a simple thing, but hand washing really does matter. Researchers in London found that if everyone regularly washed their hands we could prevent a million deaths a year. Teach your kids to sing the happy birthday song twice while washing, and always use soap.
3. Get a good night's sleep
The body's immune system quits working well when the body is sleep deprived. Now is not the time to slack off enforcing bedtime. Most school-aged children need at least 10-11 hours each night, and babies and toddlers need even more.
4. Teach proper sneezing etiquette
Most kids sneeze all over everything, spreading potentially harmful germs to siblings and friends. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teaching kids to sneeze into a handkerchief or into their elbows to prevent the spread of germs.
5. Eat well
A well-balanced diet is the best path to overall health. Some foods do slightly increase immunity, but there are no magic foods. Stick to eating plenty of plant-based foods and lean protein, and drink lots and lots of water.
6. Quarantine sick kids
If your kids do fall prey to a cold or flu, keep them away from others, including their siblings. It's a good idea to keep sick kids home from school and extracurricular activities; they'll heal faster, and you won't infect the entire neighborhood.
7. Rethink cold medicine
When we see our babies suffering, our first instinct is to pull out the medicine. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any child under 2 using over-the-counter cold medication and says these products do not work for children under 6. Also, antibiotics only treat bacterial infections and can have serious side effects if overused. Since most colds and flus are viral, not bacterial, chances are good a doctor will not prescribe your child medicine. If your child gets sick, your best bet is lots of rest, plenty of fluids and giving your child time to heal.
Stay healthy this cold and flu season. The same measures used to keep your family healthy in general, such as eating right, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of rest, are the same guidelines for preventing illness. Never underestimate the power of eating your fruits and veggies and using good hygiene. Remember that kids are never too young to start learning these good habits.