During the winter months, cold and flu season is in full swing. Kids spend more time indoors with other children and heating systems recycle dry air, which enables germs to spread easily. While there is never a guarantee you won’t get a cold or the flu, you can take precautions to lower your family’s risk of getting sick. To protect your little one from illnesses, follow these tips to keep kids healthy this winter.
1. Get Them Vaccinated
One of the first things you can do to keep kids healthy this winter is to get them vaccinated against the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends everyone over 6 months old get should get the yearly flu vaccinated. There are several types of flu vaccine, including the shot and a nasal spray. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about their recommendation for your child.
2. Teach Them Good Hand Hygiene
After vaccination, hand washing might be the best defense against cold and flu viruses. Teach your child the proper process and keep reminding them to do it before and after eating, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. The CDC recommends a five-step hand washing process for both children and adults:
- Wet hands with clean running water and apply soap.
- Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Make sure to get the backs of the hands, between the fingers, and under the nails.
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. You can time this with a song your child knows. For example, signing the traditional “Happy Birthday” song twice in a row is about 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry hands using a clean towel.
3. Remind them Not to Touch Their Faces
This can be hards for even adults to remember, but touching your face during cold and flu season is a no-no. Your nose, mouth, and even eyes have mucous membranes, which germs can enter through.
4. Get a Reusable Water Bottle to Take to School
Many schools already employ this practice and have school-approved water bottles. The aim is to cut out contact with a contaminated water fountain that can spread germs and sickness. This also promotes hydration, which is key to keeping kids healthy.
5. Educate them On Cough and Sneeze Etiquette
Teach kids to cover their coughs and sneezes. The best practice is to cover the mouth and nose with a tissue. If they have a sneeze or cough, encourage them to keep tissues with them for this purpose. Also, make sure they wash their hands afterward. If they don’t have a tissue, sneezing into a sleeve will do in a pinch.
6. Clean Frequently Touched Surfaces
Wipe down surfaces that are touched frequently throughout the day. This can include doorknobs and handles, electronic accessories, counters, light switches, and toys. Use any safe household cleaner that kills germs.
7. Put a Pause on Sharing
Getting children to share politely is a big accomplishment, so it might feel wrong discouraging it. But when germs are everywhere and their siblings, friends, or classmates might be sick, it’s important to make sure they don’t share food, drinks, cups, plates, bottles, or utensils with other children. Discouraging this particular type of sharing is probably a good practice all the time, but during winter it becomes even riskier.
8. Make Sure They Get Enough Rest
Getting sufficient sleep is important for keeping kids healthy all year, but it is especially important when they are more likely to encounter germs that can make them sick. Being well-rested is good for immunity.
9. Give Them Healthy Foods
Another way to keep kids healthy this winter is to feed them a balanced diet full of foods that contain key nutrients. This will help keep their bodies running on good fuel and boost immunity. You can consider giving them more foods that contain vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources, but you can supplement if you feel it’s necessary. Also, give probiotic foods like yogurt.
10. Replace Toothbrushes
This is something that is often overlooked, but toothbrushes can carry a ton of germs. Replacing them often (even if the bristles are still in good shape) is recommended during the cold and flu season. If your child does get sick, make sure you replace their toothbrush immediately
Make an Appointment at HealthPark Pediatrics
At HealthPark Pediatrics, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to children from birth to 21 years old. We emphasize preventive care and work with parents to guide on keeping their children healthy year-round, including winter when colds and the flu are more prevalent. If your child does show symptoms of an illness and you have concerns, make an appointment by calling (919) 896-7066.