Now that winter is well on its way, most children are looking forward to holiday celebrations and snow days. But parents might be preoccupied with concerns about the health of their little ones. After all, an estimated 60 million days of school are lost each year due to the common cold — and that doesn’t even account for missed time due to more serious illnesses like the flu. So if you want to avoid missing work to stay home with your ailing kiddo (or you want to avoid getting sick yourself), you might want to take the preventative route. It may seem like there’s nothing you can do to keep your child from falling ill, but by reinforcing routines at home and planning ahead, you may be able to stop the seasonal sniffles before they start.
Boost Their Immunity
While eating healthy foods may not completely keep your child from coming down with a cold or the flu, paying closer attention to what your kiddo is eating will likely allow them to be healthier overall. Not only can prioritizing nutritious foods help your child have more energy and maintain a better lifestyle, but it could also boost their immune system.
During this time of year, indulgence becomes the norm. It’s a good idea to offset those holiday meals with seasonal and nutritious ones at home to keep everyone in good spirits. Although 76% of American organic consumers cite the health benefits of organic food as their main reason for purchasing it, you don’t necessarily have to buy only organic foods to reap those advantages. That said, lots of fruits and veggies should be on the menu. Foods rich in vitamin D and omega-3s can also help, as can probiotics and foods like elderberry and turmeric. Sugar, salt, and fats should be consumed only in moderation. And remember to hydrate! Orange juice is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing more than 200% of the daily dose your body needs. But while it’s often seen as a cure for the common cold, orange juice is filled with (natural) sugar — so water still wins out on the hydration front.
Emphasize Sleep and Exercise
Sleep is one of the best defenses our bodies have to heal and fight off illness, so it makes sense that you’d want to make sure your kids are getting enough of it. Most children need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, which can be hard to come by with all the excitement of the season. Make sure your family doesn’t sacrifice sleep for social engagements and that everyone keeps a consistent bedtime each night.
It’s also a good idea to stay active during the wintertime. It might be tempting to stay inside and snuggle on the sofa, but physical activity can keep you from falling ill (and can provide extra energy, even as the days get shorter). Going for a walk before the holiday festivities, playing a game of football on Thanksgiving, dancing around to Christmas music, or working in some power walking during your shopping routine can allow you to sneak in some exercise during this time of year. Consider going ice skating as a family, sledding down the hill, or joining a community center to take advantage of their indoor pool during the rest of the season.
Teach Healthy Habits
Children are bound to be exposed to germs at school, but teaching them ways to prevent those germs from spreading can keep your kid healthy. Proper hand-washing techniques should be reviewed at home so that your child will remember to wash their hands after touching shared surfaces, after bathroom use, and before eating. You may also want to send your child to school with a hand sanitizer, too. You should remind your child to sneeze or cough into their shoulder, rather than their hands, and to use tissues whenever possible. You’ll also want to help them remember to avoid sharing food and drinks with others.
Get Them Vaccinated
Some people think influenza isn’t a big deal, but flu-related hospitalizations are more common than you might think. The flu can cause major health complications, including bacterial infections, pneumonia, and even death. And despite the fact that hospitals are well-equipped (as the average hospital owns or rents over 35,000 SKUs of equipment at any one time), you won’t want to spend your holiday there if your child comes down with the flu. Flu prevention is key — and the best way to keep it away from your kiddos is to get them vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months should receive the flu vaccine every year, although there are rare exceptions. Since flu activity is usually at its peak between December and February, you won’t want to wait much longer. Keep in mind that the vaccine isn’t just to protect your immediate family; even if your own children don’t experience serious complications from the flu, exposing others to this illness — especially those with compromised immune systems — can have horrific consequences. In order for herd immunity to work as intended, it’s essential for everyone who’s able to have the vaccine to do so.
With so many exciting holiday events to prepare for, the last thing anyone needs is a cold. These tips might not completely prevent your child from getting sick this season, but they’ll certainly reduce the risk of illness all year long.