Achoo! Ready or not, cold and flu season is upon us. Since locking up your kids for the winter isn’t an option, learn what you can do to prevent colds and flu. Kids get sick – it’s just a reality. Most kids experience a dozen colds in the first couple years of life, especially if they are in childcare. Yes, they are building up their immune system, so those long days of runny noses and coughs will help them later in life. But overall, being sick is no fun and we certainly don’t need to put out the welcome mat for cold and flu viruses. Kinsights Medical Director and pediatrician, Dr. Carol Wilkinson, provides tips to help keep your family healthy this winter:
Flu vaccines for the whole family! Most colds, while annoying, are not dangerous. Influenza, the virus that causes the flu, can be life threatening, causing high fevers, cough, and body aches. In some cases they can even cause significant breathing difficulties and require hospitalization, especially with young children and babies. Unlike the viruses that cause the common cold, influenza is preventable with the flu vaccine.
Avoid people with colds. During the winter season, viruses are everywhere and frequently passed from person to person. If a grandparent has the sniffles, they shouldn’t be giving kisses to their new grandchild. If your kiddo has a cough, they shouldn’t have play dates with friends. Also avoid sharing cups, food, and utensils.
Teach your kids to wash their hands. Regular hand washing is a great way to keep germs at bay. Kids put their hands in their mouth all the time, so get your kids in the habit of washing their hands after bathroom breaks and before meals. They should be washing for a good 20 seconds – try singing “Happy Birthday” twice.
Hand sanitizers are a quick fix. If you can’t get the family to a spot to wash their hands immediately, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and wash with soap and water as soon as possible. Hand sanitizer should not replace proper hand washing.
Stop the spread. Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze! Kids need to learn proper nose and mouth coverage so they don’t spread germs to siblings, friends, and parents. Remember, sneezing and coughing into your hands is NOT the way to go. Teach your child to use a tissue or handkerchief; and if they don’t have one, they should cough or sneeze into their upper sleeve or elbow.
Separate the sick one. Try to keep your sick family member isolated. If possible, have them use a separate bathroom and keep them out of the kitchen so they aren’t spreading germs where other family members are most likely to pick up them up.
Get ample rest. Fatigue and stress can make colds worse. For school age and teenage children that are busy with school, activities, and friends, be extra vigilant that they are getting their zzzzz’s.
Good nutrition and fluids. You should be eating healthy all year – and during cold and flu season, it’s especially crucial to eat a balanced diet packed with nutritious foods to help your body ward off viruses. Also, make sure your family is drinking plenty of fluids this winter.
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