8 Ways to Keep Kids Healthy This Season
With shorter, cooler days it feels like winter is right around the corner. Naturally, parents worry about illnesses and how to keep kids healthy instead. This is almost flu season after all. And most children are back in school with other kids.
Flus and colds are different.
Colds are viral infections. They usually produce a runny nose and persistent cough. They can also come with sore throats and a general feeling of yuckiness.
Flus are different.
Flus are highly contagious respiratory infections. They include the stuff that comes with colds. Symptoms such as runny noses and sore throats. But they also include chills, fevers, and headaches. They’re more serious. Especially if kids start to show signs of fatigue and nausea.
The flu can also lead to pneumonia, so it’s important to seek medical care. When your children first start exhibiting symptoms, call your family physician to make sure it’s just a cold and nothing worse.
Consider ways to keep kids healthy this winter season.
1. Get the flu shot for the whole family.
It’s almost the end of October! That’s when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months gets vaccinated against the flu. Nothing is more effective at preventing serious influenza illnesses.
Do your kids hate getting shots? Children often take cues from their parents. Here’s a helpful video that shows parents some tricks to make the process a lot easier.
2. Wash those hands.
Promote effective hand-washing, with soap and warm water. For example, post fun pictures and instructions in each bathroom. Hang them on mirrors or next to the sink. Or watch YouTube videos that help your kids remember how to wash their hands correctly every time.
Washing hands is the best way to stop spreading germs and keep kids healthy. Remind your children and their friends to wash their hands before meals. They should also do this after using the bathroom, sneezing, blowing their noses or coughing.
Keep hand sanitizers in play areas and the garage where sinks aren’t nearby. Encourage their use among everyone in the family. You’re all in this together.
Here are tips to make hand-washing easier:
- Use warm water.
- Pick fun soaps! Purchase different shapes, colors and scents for kids. If they’re more likely to use funky shapes and scents, why not get them?
- Foam soaps might encourage more handwashing. Bottled soap also keeps the sink area cleaner than bar soap.
- Lather it up and scrub both the front and back of your hands.
- Get in between fingers, under the nails and up the wrists.
- Wash for 20 seconds. Say the alphabet or sing “Happy Birthday” if you don’t want to count or use a watch.
- Rinse well and dry completely.
- Use lotion if your hands get sensitive, raw or red.
3. Get plenty of sleep.
Well-rested kids are more likely to have a strong immune system. That makes it easier for them to avoid illness or recover quicker when they do get sick.
Most growing children need between 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. You know your kids better than anyone. If they are showing signs of sleep deprivation, implement a plan to increase their sleeping hours.
Such plans include:
- Scheduling bedtime at the same time each night.
- Limiting screen time – no computers or phones the last hour or two before going to sleep.
- Promote calm activity, dimmed lights and softer sounds leading into each evening.
- Make the bedroom as dark as possible. If a nightlight is needed, use one in the hallway or bathroom.
Regular physical activity also produces a healthier immune system. Doctors suggest approximately 10-30 minutes of aerobic activity each day, depending on age.
Here are some ideas to keep kids healthy and moving:
- Family walks around the block
- Group sports like baseball, volleyball, basketball or soccer
- Individual sports such as track and field, tennis, and swimming
- Martial arts
Click here for more ways to encourage daily physical activity. Exercise also helps your kids do better at school, get along more effectively with their peers and sleep soundly at night.
5. Eat a healthy diet.
Planning and making healthy meals for the family isn’t easy when you have a full schedule. As a matter of fact, eating right is often the last priority. This is especially true when cheap fast food is so convenient.
But obesity makes everything harder.
Children need lean proteins, fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables and whole grains to ward off colds and other illnesses. A healthy diet also reduces inflammation and creates an environment in their bodies where viruses are less likely to take hold.
Limit sugar, caffeine and processed foods as well.
Like everything else we’ve discussed thus far, eating right makes it easier to sleep at night, pay attention in class and do better in sports. Click here for simple ways to improve your family’s diets during a hectic school year.
6. Social distance when necessary.
If this last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that social distancing can help prevent illness. Hopefully, your children’s school helps parents understand the importance of keeping their sick children at home. This is a great way to keep healthy kids from getting sick.
In return, when you’re informed about sick children who’ve been around your kids, do the same. Keep your kids away from elderly loved ones. Make sure they wear masks and keep their distance from anyone who might be immune-compromised.
7. Teach your kid how to properly sneeze and blow their nose.
When your kids sneeze or cough, encourage them to do so in their elbow rather than hand.
For runny noses, put tissues in their backpacks and every room in the house. Place hand sanitizers and trash bins next to tissue boxes. Kids should blow, throw and sanitize.
8. Keep those hands as clean as possible.
Fingers don’t belong in noses, rear ends, belly buttons or mouths. Make it a mantra this winter season – and all year.
Many of these are friendly and familiar reminders. Turn them into habits and routines to stay healthy!