Do your children attract colds the way a bird feeder makes hungry squirrels come running? With some simple precautions, you may be able to keep your children free from infections this cold and flu season, or at least relieve their symptoms faster and reduce their number of sick days.
While adults average only about 2 to 4 colds a year, many children have 10 or more, especially if they're in close contact with other little ones at school or day care centers. If you want to beat those odds, take a look at this guide to preventing colds.
Fighting Colds by Encouraging Cleanliness:
- Wash your hands. The most effective way to stop colds is to keep your hands clean, and keep them away from your face, especially your eyes. Teach your children to wash their hands frequently with soap for about 20 seconds at a time.
- Check your nails. Remember to scrub under fingernails too, because that's where germs get trapped. Keep your child's nails trimmed short and use a nail brush to be thorough.
- Switch your towels. A dirty towel will undo all your good intentions. Consider using disposable towels, or wash cloth towels daily, when a family member is ill.
- Disinfect toys. Stuffed toys and other playthings can transfer germs too. Clean hard surfaces with diluted bleach. Hand wash teddy bears or put them in a plastic bag with baking soda, and give them a shake.
- Limit sharing. Show your child how to share safely. Train them to use their own drinking glass and water bottle.
Fighting Colds by Changing How You Feed Your Kids:
- Eat up. Starving a cold is a myth. Serve your child a balanced and nutritious diet that will keep their energy up.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of liquids is good advice. Water or tea will loosen up congestion, and warm beverages feel good on scratchy throats.
- Sip soup. Chicken soup is another home remedy that makes sense. In addition to keeping your child hydrated, it provides essential nutrients.
- Try vitamins. A number of studies suggest that products with ingredients like vitamin C or zinc may not provide any special benefits. However, if you don’t mind the cost, you might want to see if they work for you.
Other Strategies for Fighting Colds:
- Use a humidifier. Humidifiers can reduce coughing and make it easier to breathe by adding moisture to dry winter air. Clean them regularly to avoid mold.
- Gargle with saltwater. Your probably know that salt can soothe a sore throat, but it may also prevent colds in the first place. Some studies show that even gargling with plain water leads to fewer colds, and it costs nothing.
- Cover your mouth. Encourage your child to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. Germs are more easily transmitted by touch than by air, but it's still the polite thing to do.
- Warm your feet. Many studies have cast doubt on the belief that you'll catch a cold if you go outside without a coat or hat. On the other hand, there is some evidence that keeping your feet warm helps, so let your kids wear footed pajamas or socks to bed.
- Play outdoors. Whatever they wear, your children will benefit from spending time outdoors. Some research suggests that vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of infection by 10%, and sunshine can have similar effects.
Practicing good hygiene and eating lots of chicken soup will help your child to avoid colds or recover faster. Either way, your whole family could have fewer sore throats and runny noses this winter.