How to Keep Your Child Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

Flu season peaks between December and February (CDC), so now’s the time to think about how to keep your child – and family – healthy through the winter months.

 

First and foremost, always adhere to your pediatrician’s recommendations around vaccines, which help to prevent the onset of contagious cases of flu or help the body beat the viruses faster than they might on their own.

 

7 Things You Can Do To Outsmart Flu Season

Here are seven things you can do to keep your child healthy during cold and flu season, all of which boost natural immunity to keep colds and cases of flu at bay.

1. Practice good hygiene

Review what it means to practice healthy hygiene, particularly during cold and flu season. By sneezing/coughing into a sleeve (rather than hands), washing hands regularly with soap and water, and cleaning/sanitizing shared surfaces at home, your family can go a long way toward stopping the spread of contagious bacterial and viral colds/flu.

 

Other CDC recommendations include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Minimize touching your eyes, nose, and mouth (and wash your hands immediately if you do).
  • Staying home when you’re sick.
  • Drinking lots of water.

2. Eat nourishing whole foods (and reduce the processed stuff)

We understand that packaged, processed foods and snacks make life easier for busy families. Unfortunately, processed foods are undeniably linked to everything from childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes to behavioral issues (especially those including toxic food dyes).

Help your children “eat the rainbow,” meaning meals and snacks incorporating a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. Connect with local farmers via farmers’ markets or community-supported agriculture programs (CSA), which are a win-win for holistic community health, connection, and local sustainable food supplies.

It’s not surprising that the same veggies and fruits that grow this time of year are chock-full of vitamin C, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals that support natural immunity, like:

  • Root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, and potatoes)
  • Leafy greens (bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc)
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits
  • Persimmons

Have children who are particularly picky about fruits or veggies? While we love to see children eating vegetables in plain sight, try these kid-friendly recipes with “secret” fruits and vegetables while they’re still learning to like (or tolerate) them.

Also check out the BetterBites online course from Kids Eat In Color. This self-paced course helps parents understand eating behaviors and learn how to help their child build healthy relationships with food long-term. Patients of Pediatric Associates of the Northwest can access the course at a discounted price.

3. Get enough sleep

Healthy sleep habits form an essential foundation for healthy immunity. Children who don’t get enough sleep are far more likely to get sick and stay sick for longer. They’re also more likely to suffer from more severe cold/flu symptoms.

 

This can be a crazy time of year, but do your best to create and maintain healthy sleep habits for the entire family – including your teens!

4. Teach them how to manage stress

Stress breaks down the immune system as fast as sleep builds it up. Plus, most people with high levels of stress and anxiety don’t sleep well anyway. Help your child manage their stress (which inherently helps you manage your own) using tools that work for any age:

 

  • Deep belly breathing.
  • Getting active (stretching, doing jumping jacks or jumping on a trampoline, running a few laps around the yard, riding bikes, taking a walk, having a dance party with/without earphones, playing with a pet, etc.)
  • Practicing gratitude.
  • Learning to use guided imagery (recreate a favorite, calm place or relive a favorite memory that brings them joy, or imagine going to a dream spot that would bring them peace, etc.)
  • Keeping a journal allows them to get stressful thoughts out onto the page and out of their “monkey mind.” Click Here for some helpful journal prompts – all of which are easily adjusted for younger children.

5. Make exercise a part of each day

If your child doesn’t play a sport or participate in a physical/extra-curricular activity, try making exercise a regular part of each day. That can be as simple as a 20-minute walk with the dog after school or dinner, riding bikes during a homework break, doing a yoga video together, or fast-walking from the furthest parking spot in the lot.

6. Honor symptoms of illness by remaining home

Avoiding those who are sick is one way to stay healthy; the other is to keep away from others when you or your children are sick. First of all, a child who is ill and heads to school or other scheduled activities isn’t getting the rest they need to get well, which leads to longer and more severe illnesses.

 

Then, of course, an infected child at school spreads their contagious germs to others. It’s not always easy but please do keep kids home and stay home from work yourself when experiencing any signs of illness. The most common symptoms of common winter illnesses in kids are:

 

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose (not allergy-related)
  • Feeling more tired than normal.
  • Body aches
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Red or irritated eyes (again, not allergy-related)

 

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, try to keep them home and feel free to contact our 24-hour nurse hotline (503-227-0671) -to check in.

 

REMINDER: Never administer antibiotics unless they’re prescribed for the current situation. Taking an antibiotic for a viral flu or when it’s unnecessary worsens things.

7. Minimize sharing

Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to keeping kids healthy during cold and flu season. Educate children about how germs are spread (helpful for enforcing flu season hygiene!) and how they should never share:

 

  • Cups
  • Plates
  • Utensils
  • Straws
  • Snacks, food, or candy that others have already touched or taken bites out of.

 

Even sharing jackets, scarves, or hats puts them at risk since these items commonly touch unwashed hands and faces and aren’t washed as often as they should be.

Have a Question About This Year’s Cold & Flu Season? Just Ask PANW!

Do you have questions about this year’s cold and flu season? Want to verify your children’s vaccines are up to date? Pediatric Associates of the Northwest is here for you. Check your patient portal account or call us any time of day – or night – and you’ll have access to all the information you need to keep your child as healthy as possible.

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