Cold, flu, nasty stomach bugs — it may seem like every time you turn around your child is fighting yet another winter ailment. It’s very frustrating for parents and miserable for children. Though some winter illness is inevitable, there are precautions you can take to keep your kids their healthiest through these long, cold months. Here are a few tips.
- Wash, wash and wash again – You can’t get enough hand washing during the winter months. Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. Teach your children how to wash their hands well and let them know to do it often. Kids should wash their hands after they cough or sneeze (or even better, teach them to cough and sneeze into their arms), after using the bathroom and after school or daycare. If you’re not around soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Get proper nutrition – Fueling little bodies gives their immune systems the best chance at fighting off whatever winter ickiness their friends are passing around. Feed your children well-balanced meals that include plenty of fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Supplement with a multi-vitamin. If you don’t know which vitamin to choose, ask your pediatrician.
- Catch those Zzz’s – Sleep is your body’s way to reboot and recharge. It helps keep your immune system strong, along with a host of other benefits. Make sure your child is getting enough rest during the day and at night. Find out how much sleep your child needs from the National Sleep Foundation.
- Practice food safety in the kitchen – Hand washing is even more important in the kitchen. Always use a food thermometer to make sure foods your kids consume are cooked to the proper temperatures. When you’re handling raw meat, poultry and eggs, be cautious not to cross-contaminate any bacteria to raw foods or foods that won’t be cooked to the proper temperature. Avoiding food-borne illness requires just a little extra effort but is well worth it to spare your kiddos the misery of stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea and fevers that go along with it.
- Stay warm – Even though being cold doesn’t actually cause a cold (contrary to what your great grandma may have told you), it is true that fluctuating temperatures can lower your immune system so that you’re more susceptible to illness. Make sure your child dresses for the weather, especially in frigid winter months. Layers are great because light jackets are suitable for wear in the car seat and you can put your puffy outer layer on top of the seatbelt. Don’t forget hats and mittens or gloves to protect the extremities in cold weather.
- Illness lock-down – As hard as it is to keep kids confined when they get sick, it’s so important to make sure the illness doesn’t sweep through your whole household, especially if you have other children. If your child has been sick, it’s best to keep them resting in their individual rooms and double down on hand washing. Don’t send your kids back to school or daycare until they have been fever-free or symptom-free for over 24 hours. If your child has been prescribed antibiotics, wait 24 to 48 hours after the meds have started to return to school or daycare. Remember, after you child is better, take time to wipe down surfaces, was bed linens in hot water and swap out toothbrushes for new ones. Consider a flu shot to stave off that virus each year.
At Sparkles!, we work with kids on proper handwashing and make sure that kids who have been out sick are healthy before returning to daycare, to reduce the spread of germs. We want everyone to be safe and healthy, even if that means we miss their smiling faces for a day or two.