I have always had a love-hate relationship with winter. Part of me loves a nasty blizzard, (probably because it gives me an excuse to stay snuggled indoors all day) but the other part of me dreads the winter storms because of what they typically bring with them: the dreaded cold and flu! I mean, I am sure that we could take a poll and not a single person would say that they enjoy throwing up or being stuffed up. Now, add your kiddos into the equation. If you don't want to be sick you surely don't want your kids to be sick either! I have a baby due this winter, so I have been extremely interested in how I can keep her protected from little sniffles. Today I am compiling the most common tips I have found as I have read up on this topic for myself. These 11 tips are super easy!
1. Wash those hands: Regular handwashing dramatically reduces the passing of those cold and flu germs, so get your kids in the habit of scrubbing up. (or using a hand sanitizer) Washing or sanitizing should be done before and after each new location your child goes (preschool or day care, after every playdate, and before/after they eat.) Scrubbing for 15-20 seconds is key, teach kids to sing "Happy Birthday" to themselves twice before rinsing!
2. Be active every day: Multiple studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise can reduce the number of cold and flu episodes that occur over the course of a year by 25-50 percent. Some doctors believe the exercise helps by boosting your child's circulation of infection-fighting cells. So, keep those kids actively playing outside as long as you can. When it gets too cold, get creative and keep them moving inside!
3. Get plenty of sleep: "Early to bed" is key for those little ones. Sleep deprivation nearly doubles the risk of getting a cold or flu. So, how much sleep do they need? Most babies need approximately 14 hours of sleep a day; preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleepy time.
4. Avoid touching the face: Unwashed human hands can be covered with thousands of germs at all times. If a child rubs their eyes or nose, those germs are deposited directly onto his mucous membranes. Mucous membranes quickly absorb those germs and then PRESTO there is your cold and flu! Instead, introduce them to the beautiful things called tissues to dab those teary eyes and itchy noses.
5. Cough into something: Tissues and elbows are perfect little cough catchers! Teach those kids to cough and sneeze in the crook of their arm, or into a tissue. This won't prevent them from getting a virus, but it will help keep a virus they have from spreading!
6. Trash your tissues: Catching germs in tissues is great, but if you leave those tissues laying around they are a tad counter productive. Germs easily spread through tissues to other surfaces! So throw out all those tissues after use and then wash your hands! It is also a good idea to empty trashes with those germy tissues in them at least once a day.
7. Consume a balanced and healthy diet: Fill those plates with colorful fruits and vegetables! Eating those healthy foods will help boost your child's immune system. It's especially important to choose foods that are rich in vitamin C (broccoli, strawberries, and oranges) and vitamin D (tuna, fortified milk, and cereals).
8. Get the flu vaccine: Yes, I know this is a controversial one. But, I found it listed in multiple children health articles by pediatricians! You can help protect your toddler from some viruses and bacteria simply by making sure their vaccinations are up to date and that they get a yearly flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's the single best way to prevent the flu. This is your best bet in keeping your child flu-free: In healthy kids the flu shot is up to 90 percent effective. Keep in mind, little ones younger than six months of age can’t be vaccinated, so take your own shot in the arm to protect your little bundle!
9. Stay away from sick people: This seems like a "duh" statement but stop and think about it for a second! Your child is more likely to catch the flu in crowded places - duh. Obviously you can't just keep them out of school or daycare. But if you can avoid malls, performance halls and even public transportation, you’ll reduce the odds of picking up those nasty germs. Although it may seem harsh, if you have a really little babe even big family parties might be something to avoid. Lastly, if you can tell that someone is sick don't be afraid to ask them to keep their distance! Hopefully everyone can respect your desire as a parent to keep your children healthy!
10. Humidify your home: There is quite a lot of scientific evidence that the flu virus survives best in low-humidity environments. That is the one of the biggest reasons why it spreads in so easily in winter. Keep a humidifier in baby's room and run it during naps and through the night. The moist air from a humidifier or vaporizer also thins out mucous secretions, helping to calm coughs and relieve congestion if your kiddo does catch the bug.
11. Don't be a carrier: According to many pediatricians, kids most often catch the flu from their parents. If one of your kids is sick, you can unknowingly pass germs to your other children just by doing your regular mom or dad duties: wiping noses, holding hands, changing diapers or preparing food. Keep the risk to a minimum by washing your hands frequently, and become friends with household disinfectant! Clean all of those often touched surfaces like taps, door handles or toys that you or the flu-infested family member may have touched.So, I know that a lot of these things are sort of "common sense", but there are probably some first time parents out there (like myself) who are experiencing these concerns for the first time this season! If that isn't you, then perhaps this was a good little reminder of some quick, easy tips. I will surely be practicing these tips at my house this winter, and I hope you will too! Of course, it is inevitable that our babies will get sick at some point. When they do get sick, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can't protect them from everything all of the time. You will always be a superhero in their mind (and ours too!!).