12 Tips to Get You Through Cold & Flu Season
By Sarah Parker Ward
Cool weather is here, and so are the sniffles and coughs of cold and flu season. While there’s a very good chance your family will encounter some type of bug, we’ve rounded up a list of simple steps you can take to help keep your family at its best, as well as some much-needed info to get them back on their feet when the germs do win.
- Don’t Stress: The first step to a healthy body is an immune system that’s at the ready, which means free of any deficiency that requires the body to work in overdrive. So make sure your littles are eating balanced meals and getting the right amount of sleep each night.
- Wash Those Hands: Studies have found that as many as 95 percent of us don’t wash our hands correctly. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend 20 full seconds of scrubbing. If you’re worried about drying out your little ones' hands, opt for alcohol-based sanitizer instead.
- Clean More Often: Routine cleanings, like stripping the beds or cleaning out the fridge, should have an uptick in frequency during peak germ season.
- Keep Them Active: In the dead of winter it can be easy to stay cozied up inside, but kids still need to get out and sweat in order to keep their immune systems strong.
- Consider the Flu Vaccine: For children older than 6 months, consider an annual flu shot as a preventative measure. You can opt for either the nasal spray or injection shot.
- Bring Hand Wipes: Even if your little one is out of diapers (lucky you!), throw a travel pack of wipes in your bag. Public areas like door handles, grocery carts and water fountains are often teaming with germs, so give them a quick wipe down before touching.
- Know What to Look For: The flu can be serious business, yet knowing the difference between it and the common cold can be tricky. Common cold symptoms often include congestion, cough, and/or a runny nose, while the flu is often indicated by the sudden onset of a fever, chills, body aches and extreme fatigue.
- Stay Home: If your child has a fever or severe congestion, keep them home. Sending them to school not only puts other children at risk, but could also prolong their illness.
- Choose Targeted Medications: Over-the-counter medication can provide much needed relief for many of the symptoms of both cold and flu. However, when selecting over-the-counter medications, opt for those that target only the symptoms your little one has. Read and follow the entire product label prior to giving your child any medicine. If you have questions, always consult your pediatrician or pharmacist.
- Keep the Liquid flowing: In every form possible, hydration is key for both preventing and treating cold and flu viruses. Warm tea, soup and saline nose spray are all helpful.
- Help Them Recoup Restfully: Sometimes it’s hard for little ones to fully understand how to rest unless they’re sleeping. Beat their boredom by reading to them, breaking out photo albums, bundling up for a short walk, or – the tried and true standby – watching a movie.
- Know When to Call the Doctor: There are many different strains of flu and, if untreated, certain strains can pose serious health risk. In fact, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with the flu annually, many of whom are young children. If your son or daughter has difficulty breathing or a fever that reaches over 102 degrees or spikes rapidly, call your pediatrician right away.
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Are They Getting Enough Zzz’s?
Optimal sleep time is:
Newborns: 16-18 hours
1-4 years old: 11-12 hours
5-12: At least 10 hours
13+: 9-10 hours