Avoiding Colds in the Cold

Five rules to keep your kids healthy this winter.

What is it about winter that makes everyone sick? A combination of germs spread in close quarters, weak immune systems from cold temperatures, and the dry circulating air work to increase the likelihood you and your kids get sick. From viruses to bacterial infections, you may feel like your family can’t catch a break. It’s a domino effect. As soon as one person’s well, another gets ill.

Caring for sick kids can be exhausting. Runny noses, coughing, sore throats, and stomach bugs aren’t fun for kids or parents. This winter, set the five following rules to reduce the chances your kids get sick.

Rule 1: Wash Your Hands

The best way to avoid colds, flus, and other wintertime bugs is to keep your hands clean. Kids get lazy or are too busy playing to take the time to wash their hands, making them more susceptible to wintertime illnesses. Teach your children proper hand-washing technique, scrubbing with soap and warm water for 30 seconds after every time they use the restroom; before every meal and snack; and after playing on the playground, coming home from school, or being out grocery shopping with mom or dad.

Rule 2: Don’t Touch Your Face

Look around a room full of kids and you’ll see them rubbing their eyes, picking their noses, and putting their fingers in their mouths. It’s no wonder they get sick so easily. Germs quickly spread from surfaces to hands to mucous membranes to the bloodstream, where they can make you sick. So encourage your kids not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. When they sneeze or cough, they should do so into the crook of their arm rather than their hand so they won’t spread germs.

Rule 3: Boost Your Immune System

A strong immune system is better able to fight off the foreign invaders that try to make your kids sick. So it only makes sense to do what you can to boost your kids’ immune systems. This includes feeding them nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Offer water or milk to drink rather than juice or soda. Keep junk food out of the house.

And remember that kids’ immune systems need plenty of sleep to stay strong and healthy. Staying up late and waking up early for school is a recipe for sickness. Make sure your kids are getting the recommended number of hours of sleep. It’s probably more than you think. Young children need between 10 and 14 hours of sleep a day.

Regular exercise is another way to keep the immune system in tip-top shape. Don’t let your kids sit on the couch all winter long. Send them outdoors bundled up to play in the yard, sign them up to play an indoor sport like basketball, or go swimming in an indoor pool.

Rule 4: Avoid Germy Places

Germs seem to congregate in certain places. During seasons of sickness, you may want to avoid playgrounds, indoor play areas in the mall, or daycares at the gym. When the weather warms up they can get their fair share of playgrounds and jungle gyms.

Rule 5: No Sharing

You teach your kids to share their toys, but you should also explain to them why it’s not a good idea to share drinks, food, or lip balm. When you set out the chips and salsa, remind them that double-dipping is not allowed.