It’s almost inevitable: Your child starts school and soon enough they come home with sniffles, cough, and fever. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tricks to prevent your child from getting sick as often.
Keep Hands Clean
If there is one tip that is most important on this list, it is frequent hand-washing. Regular hand-washing dramatically reduces the passing of germs that cause respiratory (cough, runny nose, sneezing) and gastrointestinal (vomiting/diarrhea) issues. Hand-washing is more effective than using hand sanitizer, but if you have nothing else, the sanitizer will do.
Make sure your kids wash their hands when they leave preschool or day care, after every play date, after using the bathroom and before they eat. Teach kids to sing “Happy Birthday” to themselves twice before rinsing, because scrubbing for 15-20 seconds is key!
Avoid Touching the Face
Thumb sucking, nose picking and nail biting all increase a child’s chances of getting ill, because they bring germs from the hands up to the face, where they can invade the body. Encourage your children to avoid putting their hands in their mouths or touching their faces.
Be Active Every Day
Studies show that regular, moderate exercise can reduce the number of cold and flu episodes that occur over the course of a year by 25-50 percent. Exercising increases circulation and boosts the cells in your body that are assigned to attack bacteria. These cells appear to work more slowly in people who don’t exercise than in those who do.
Get plenty of ZZZs
A good night’s sleep goes a long way. Stick to an early bedtime. Sleep deprivation nearly doubles the risk of getting a cold, because the body is too fatigued to fight infection. Babies need 14 hours of sleep total each day. Toddlers on average need 11-13 hours of sleep, and school-aged children need about 10-11 hours.
Get the Flu Vaccine
It’s a proven fact that vaccines minimize your child’s chances of getting sick. If your child does still get the flu, it’s usually milder than it would be if they didn’t get vaccinated.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Meals with plenty of colorful fruits and veggies provide the vitamins and antioxidants the body needs to fight infection. Look for food rich in vitamin C (broccoli, oranges, strawberries), Vitamin D (fortified milk and tuna) and zinc (grass-fed beef, lentils, yogurt). All these foods are also good for the gut flora, which studies now show also help fight infection.