8 Tips to Prevent Colds and Flus for Germaphobe Parents
The flu alone is responsible for around 20,000 hospitalizations of children under five every year. As a matter of fact, it’s the leading cause of hospitalization for a vaccine-preventable disease and can cause complications from ear infections to seizures. Not to scare you… but it can even be fatal. And while colds generally aren’t as serious, they can still make your child miserable (and affect their school attendance).
Knowing how to treat colds and flus is good. But knowing how to prevent them in the first place is even better!
Keep Those Hands Clean...
You probably grew up with your parents reminding us to “wash your hands before you eat!” It’s time for you to do the same. Good hand hygiene is truly the best way to prevent your child from contracting the flu or a cold. Remind your children to wash their hands often – and show them the proper way to do it by scrubbing their hands with soap and warm water at least long enough to sing a round of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
Since most colds and flus are contracted through your hands, keeping them clean is a very effective method of prevention – if your kids are consistent with it.
...And Keep Them Where They Belong
Flus and colds often happen when unclean hands come into contact with the face – such as when a child rubs their eyes, picks their nose, or puts their hands, in their mouths. Teach your children to keep their hands away from their faces whenever possible. Be patient as they learn, it takes time to un-train a habit!
There’s a Right Way to Sneeze and Cough!?
Instinctively, if there is no Kleenex in the vicinity, most kids will cough or sneeze directly onto their hands – which is one of the reasons why those hands need to be washed so frequently. Teach kids that, in order to decrease the spread of germs, it’s better to cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow if tissues aren’t immediately available. Again, it might take a while before it becomes a habit, but stick with it.
Okay, a lot of parenting in the early years revolves around teaching children how to share – but they shouldn’t share everything! Life in a classroom or daycare center can be pretty communal and kids will sometimes share food, drinks – and even personal items. Teach them that anything that goes into their mouths needs to be kept to themselves, as they can get very sick from sharing them with other kids. Consider even more common items like crayons or pencils. Because they’re held in the hands (and put into mouths), they can also easily transfer germs.
Keep It Private
Every year is different when it comes to colds and flus – sometimes the season is very mild, sometimes it’s quite severe. If you hear reports that the season is particularly harsh, try to keep your kids out of public places as much as possible. You can’t do anything about school of course, but try to do the weekly shopping when your kids are in class (grocery stores are easy places to pick up germs). In short, try to minimize exposure as much as reasonably possible, without completely isolating them.
And Keep It Clean
Hands aren’t the only thing that should be kept clean, of course. During the cold and flu season especially, make sure that you are routinely sanitizing the home, particularly surfaces like the table, kitchen and bathroom countertops, and doorknobs, all of which can be notorious germ harbors. Also, if your dishwasher has an extra sanitizing cycle, be sure to use this to help prevent the spread of germs through silverware, glasses, or similar items.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for the common cold. The flu however, is a different matter. It’s recommended that all children over the age of 6 months be given a yearly vaccine. That may sound like a lot of extra needles – but remember, children over the age of 2 can now be given this vaccine via a nasal spray, which makes doctor visits a lot less scary for them! And they are not the only ones who should be vaccinated – if you yourself go without the shot and get sick, you can easily pass your illness to your kids.
Vaccination helps to seriously cut down on your child’s chances of contracting the flu. However, it’s important to remember that it is not a silver bullet – and can’t replace good habits like hand hygiene for protection.
It is also important to remember that in some cases, a flu vaccine might not be appropriate. If your child has egg allergies, for instance, talk to your pediatrician to determine whether or not vaccination is a good idea.
The best prevention against illness in general – and viruses in particular – is an overall healthy lifestyle. If your kids are eating a balanced diet with enough to drink, getting adequate sleep each night and staying reasonably active, they’ll have a strong immune system to fight off illness and disease!
Some parents like to give extra Vitamin C or other immune boosters during the cold and flu season as well – talk to your doctor to see if this is right for your child.
What do you do during cold and flu season to help prevent illness? Share your tips with us in the comments below!Tags : health