If it seems like your child repeatedly comes down with colds despite your best efforts, you’re probably right. The fact is, kids are more susceptible to cold viruses than adults for the simple reason that they have not yet developed the immunity to fight them. With over 200 viruses that cause colds, the typical child will suffer from several colds per year. Since there is no known cure for the common cold, prevention is the best defense. Here are simple steps that can help keep your child healthy:
- Stop the spread. The viruses that cause colds are spread by airborne droplets. A cough or sneeze left uncovered can contaminate nearby people or objects. It’s a good idea to teach your child to grab a tissue when a cough or sneeze is coming. If that isn’t possible, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends coughing or sneezing into your upper sleeve rather than your hand. Remind your children if they touch their eyes, nose or mouth they should wash their hands. Keeping hands germ-free can dramatically reduce the spread of the virus.
- Keep it clean. The best defense against viruses is still good hand washing. That means vigorously rubbing your hands together using soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds. The Mayo Clinic suggests teaching your child to sing a song like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Happy Birthday” to ensure adequate washing time. You may also consider carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer with you when possible. Just make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol and that children rub their hands together until the gel is completely dry. Make sure that small children are supervised when using hand sanitizer, as children may be poisoned from licking or eating it.
- Don’t share. It may be contrary to everything your child has been taught, but this is one instance where sharing isn’t a good idea. Certainly do not allow your child to share his drink, even with family members. Also make them aware that sharing pens and pencils in the classroom can spread germs.
- Keep it loose. Humidifiers put moisture in the air, preventing dryness of the mouth, nose and throat. They can also help loosen secretions and decrease congestion. You might consider placing a cool mist humidifier in your child’s room when she becomes congested.
- Get moving. Moderate exercise is a good idea for the whole family. When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to curl up at home and do nothing. While colds can strike at any time, the risk of contamination is greater during the winter when we are confined to smaller indoor areas. Viruses also tend to thrive in the drier, winter environments. Web MD recommends regular aerobic exercise to help increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells.
- Eat yogurt. The healthy bacteria in yogurt can help to boost the immune system and stave of illnesses. Eating a serving of yogurt several days a week may decrease your child’s chances of becoming ill.
- Think healthy. With work, school and a full activity calendar, it’s hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes a few small steps are all it takes to decrease your child’s risk of illness. Encourage a well-balanced diet by keeping your refrigerator stocked with healthy fruits and veggies. Also, encourage kids to drink plenty of fluids in the winter months to help loosen congestion and stay hydrated. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.
- Avoid the ‘back-to-school plague’ (cnn.com)