Colder weather usually means an increase in the number of colds that all of us could get, including children. A lot of kids stay home from school with a cold every year, especially when the weather turns cold.
Colds can be caused by hundreds of different viruses; these viruses are contracted from droplets of mucus that an infected person releases into the air when they exhale. But they can also be caused by touching items or surfaces that have been contaminated by a person with a cold, if we then touch our mouths, eyes or noses.
If your child is 2 or 3, he or she can begin learning how to avoid catching colds from other children. Here are some useful tips to pass down to your youngster (and they’re good for grown-ups to follow, too!).
1. Wash hands frequently!
There is almost no such thing as washing hands too often. Teach your child to soap and lather for about 20 seconds, as a quicker wash job won’t be thorough enough.
Your child should wash his or her hands after coming home from school, before eating, after going grocery-shopping with you (where she may have been gripping the shopping cart handle with her hands), after playing with other children, and whenever you feel that your youngster’s hands may need washing.
As a parent, avoid possible contamination by not touching any part of your face with your fingertips, if you’ve been around an infected person or out in public. Should you transfer a virus from your fingers to your cheek, for instance, you may infect your child when they come up and kiss you. Cold viruses can live for several hours after an infected person deposited them on a lifeless surface.
Using a mild soap is fine, it will still do the job and not dry out your child’s hands. Foaming soaps are great also. When you’re away from home, moist sanitizing towelettes are convenient. Liquid hand sanitizers are a little harsh, though. Even if you read labels and buy the type that doesn’t have harsh chemicals, you still have to contend with the fact that they’re mostly made of alcohol, which can be drying to the skin.
2. Teach Your Child to Sneeze or Cough into the Inside of the Elbow:
This will help keep the disease from spreading to other children and family members.
3. Use Separate Utensils and Eating Ware for Everyone:
This may be obvious to a lot of people, but the point to remember with this is that it is a good idea never to share foods from the same plate or drinks from the same container. It is smart to teach your children never to exchange germs in this way, as a person can be infected and contagious before any symptoms appear. Also, some parents feel that it is okay to kiss their children on the mouth; but there again, you only increase germ transfer by doing that.
As an added precaution, when someone is sick in your household, use a little bleach with your dish-washing soap when washing dishes (vinegar is another great, and natural, disinfecting solution).
4. Wipe Household Items that Get Touched by Different Family Members:
Do this frequently. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to avoid germ transfer. These items include counter tops, door knobs, light switches, remote controls, computer keyboards and the like. Soap and water will work, or you can use a diluted disinfectant. When wiping computer keyboards, use regular soap and water or a cleaner, but wring out excess fluid from cloth or sponge, as no liquid should go past the surface of the keys (also, be sure that computer is turned off).
If your child comes down with a cold, wash his or her toys. Wipe down or soak plastic or wooden toys, and launder stuffed animals.
5. Don’t Smoke Around Your Children —
Studies have shown that people who smoke cigarettes are more prone to getting colds and other infections. Similarly, children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to catch colds.
6. Have Your Sick Child Stay Home from School and Other Activities —
This will not only prevent other children from possibly catching your child’s virus, but it will give your child the rest that he or she needs for their body to heal and recharge.
7. Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep —
Few things make a person more susceptible to getting sick than lack of proper sleep. Not getting enough sleep, even for one night, weakens a person’s immune system, whether the person is a grown-up or a child. A weaker immune system means the body will be less capable of fighting a virus when exposure to the virus occurs.
Young children need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night; babies and toddlers need even more. That’s uninterrupted sleep (except in the case of newborns, who may wake up multiple times a night for feedings). Make sure your child has a quiet, dark room in which to sleep. Either noise or light will diminish the quality of their sleep.
8. Teach Your Children to Love Fruits and Vegetables!
These are an important part of a healthy diet for all of us. Not only are they packed with vitamins and other unique nutrients that promote good health, but also, because they’re rich in fiber, they help move waste out of the body, which is another important way to stay healthy. Oranges are especially good at cold time, as they will make body aches go away. You can also try diluting orange juice with hot water; this will soothe a sore throat and give your sick child’s immune system the boost that it needs. (Please note: fruit juices are not recommended for infants under 6 months of age.)
By Lisa Pecos