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 vaccination. 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.
The CDC also recommends specific COVID-19 vaccines for most teens and children over the age of five. If you have questions or concerns about having your child vaccinated against COVID-19 then please talk to their pediatrician. They can give you the facts on the vaccine and how your child can benefit from vaccination.
2. Teach Them Good Hand Hygiene
After vaccination, hand washing might be the best defense against getting sick from bacteria or viruses. Chances are that your entire family has learned and practiced the proper handwashing process over the last two years. It’s still important. Keep reminding them to do it before and after eating, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. As a refresher, 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. 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 or coughing into their sleeve at the elbow will do in a pinch.
4. Get Them Their Own Reusable Water Bottle
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. Clean Frequently Touched Surfaces
Perhaps this is another obvious tip, but we could all use a reminder every now and then. 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.
6. Put the Brakes on Sharing
Getting children to share politely is a big accomplishment, so it might feel wrong to discourage it once they’ve gotten with the program. 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.
7. 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.
8. Prioritize Nutrition
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.
Talk to a Pediatrician
The providers at Wake Forest Pediatrics strive to improve patient care by strengthening the patient-doctor relationship, providing open communication, and working as a team for a comprehensive approach to medical care. To talk to our team about keeping your child safe and healthy this winter (and throughout the rest of the year), call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059 to make an appointment.