When flu season is upon us, it can seem all too difficult to keep the kids healthy. Germs are everywhere, and everyone you know is getting some sort of cold or stomach flu. Even if you’ve been staying mostly at home, if one illness makes its way into your house, you probably already have witnessed how it can take out an entire family in a matter of days, leaving you all sniffling and coughing.
Keep the kids as healthy as possible this winter, with a few lifestyle changes. Not only will they be good habits to protect your kids from illnesses all year-round, but they might even be habits you want to pick up yourself.
1. Enforce the hand-washing rule.
Okay, so we all know we should wash our hands regularly and after going to the bathroom or before meals, but how often do you wash your hands after leaving the house? Or after quickly blowing your nose? And do you always wash your hands for 20 seconds and with hot water and soap? Or do you just rinse them for a few seconds, tops?
Enforce the hand-washing rule for your entire family: 20 seconds with hot water and soap, always after being out in public, after blowing your nose or sneezing and before meals. It really does make a difference and is a simple way to protect your family, but it’s all-too-easy to neglect.
2. Keep things clean.
Similarly, keep things clean around the house — cleaner than normal. And we’re not just talking about picking up some clutter. Break out the household disinfectant and spray off all of the frequently-touched surfaces, from door knobs to faucets, countertops to tabletops, remote controls to cell phones.
3. Take a look at what you’re eating.
Sometimes, making a few changes to your family’s diet can really make a difference during cold and flu season. If your children aren’t getting enough immunity-boosting foods on the regular, they could be more susceptible to certain illnesses.
A few easy things to add into your daily meals?
Plenty of fruits and vegetables (the more colorful, the better), dairy with probiotics for extra gut health and lots of liquids — but only the good kinds. Lay easy on the sodas and juices and make sure your child drinks half their body weight in ounces of water each day.
4. Be strict on sleep schedules.
Just like poor diet, poor sleep also leads to increased illness. Ensure your children are getting enough sleep to keep their bodies working at their best. Experts recommend up to 14 hours of sleep per night for toddlers, up to 13 hours of sleep per night for preschoolers and up to 11 hours of sleep per night for adolescents.
5. Get in some exercise.
While you might think that keeping your child calm, comfortable and at home is the best way to protect them from outside illnesses, make sure they’re getting enough exercise and fresh air, too, as both can impact their immune system.
Try to get them out in the backyard for some blood-pumping play time, or take them to the park for some after-school fun (just remember to wash your hands when you get home!).
6. Scale back your stressors.
You may think your child has nothing to stress out about, but, believe it or not, your child experiences their own versions of stress — and that can really give their immune system a beating. Try to ease your child’s (and your own) stress, especially during the winter months when you’re more prone to catching an illness. Try to plan activities for the both of you that are more low-key and mindful, whether it’s taking a walk, some quiet coloring time or simply reading on the couch together.
7. Know when to go to the doctor.
Of course, you can take all of the precautions in the world and still somehow end up with a sick child. When should you go to the doctor and when should you stay home?
It’s a good rule of thumb to always call your child’s doctor if they have a fever, they’ve had several instances of vomiting or diarrhea, they’re having trouble breathing or they’re in severe pain. From there, your doctor can recommend next steps.
Keep yourself and your family safe!
As you face the few months of cold and flu season, keep yourself and your family safe with actionable, preventative measures. While it may seem excessive or even annoying in the moment, you’ll be glad when your family manages to avoid the latest string of illnesses making their way around the neighborhood.