It’s officially winter. That means it’s cold and flu season. No one enjoys being down with these viruses and there are no perfect ways to prevent illness. However, there are ways to avoid getting the cold and flu virus this season. You can implement these ideas with your children to help them from getting sick this season, as well! (Disclaimer: Never use anything you find on the internet as a replacement for the advice of your primary care provider. Always seek medical treatment from a professional.)
How You and Your Child Can Avoid Flu and Colds
Encourage good handwashing.
The number one way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs is to use good handwashing. It’s quick and simple! Soap and water are our best defense. Encourage handwashing before eating, after using the bathroom, and when getting home from school. Teach the proper way to wash hands. Teach washing the thumbs well, getting between the fingers, and on the top of the hands. One way to ensure the length of handwashing is long enough is to teach them to sing the Happy Birthday song while they wash their hands. Handwashing length should be at least 20 seconds.
Get the flu shot.
It’s true. Getting your flu shot is going to reduce the chance of getting the flu. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone who is 6 months older and up. (Remember that the vaccines do not cause the flu!) If you aren’t sure if you or your loved one should get a flu shot, you can visit the CDC recommendations here.
Teach your kids not to drink or eat after others.
This is a common way that germs are spread. Teach your children not to eat or drink after others, and that includes family members. Often people are sick long before they show symptoms (it’s called an incubation period) so teach not drinking or eating after ANYONE, not just those who appear sick.
While I’m discussing the transfer of germs through food and drink, let me also remind you not to kiss babies or let anyone kiss your babies! There is no need to do this and spread germs to vulnerable infants. You can love them without transferring your germs to them.
Encourage your kids not to excessively touch their face, particularly their eyes.
One of the main ways that flu and colds are spread is by us rubbing and touching our eyes and other mucous membranes. The less your child touches their own face and eyes, the more likely they are not to get the flu or cold viruses.
Teach them to cover their cough and sneezes.
Teach your children to properly cover their cough and sneezes. Many viruses travel through the air, so protect others from germs by properly covering your cough/sneeze. This would be to sneeze or cough into the elbow of your arm. Avoid doing it into your hands, as you then touch things. Sure, this may not necessarily protect them from germs, but if everyone teaches their children to do this, it will help collectively.
Another thing to encourage is for them to immediately throw their tissues away. Don’t leave tissues you have used lying around to spread germs onto surfaces or to be picked up by others.
Keep children home if they are sick.
If your child is sick, keep them home! Don’t send them to school or to a birthday party where they can spread their illness. Again, if we all do this collectively, it will help prevent the spread of germs! If you are sick with flu symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone without the help of fever-reducing medications.
Encourage your child to eat healthy and include fruits and vegetables. This will ensure they are getting the proper nutrition to have a healthy immune system. I know most children don’t like to eat the best diet. Nothing replaces a good diet but definitely fill in any deficits with a good multi-vitamin.
Get enough sleep.
Your immune system suffers if you don’t get enough sleep. Adults and children alike should ensure they are getting plenty of rest, so their body can properly fight off illnesses like colds and flu viruses.
These are all great ways to help you and your children avoid getting the cold and flu viruses. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there is no perfect prevention. If you are showing signs of illness be sure to visit your primary care provider to be treated appropriately. (And remember, colds and viruses do not respond to antibiotics, but let your primary care provider decide what illness you have.)