Article written by Dr. Carrier Kinsley
Wintertime is the season for colds, the flu and a multitude of other infectious illnesses. There are quite a few things you can do to help keep your child healthy during this time of year:
You and your child (when 6+ months) along with other family members should get the flu shot yearly. Fall is the ideal time to do this, but better later than never! The flu shot can be given through the spring as well since there is still usually flu around until the summer. Getting the vaccine every year is the best-known method to prevent the flu and if an immunized person gets the flu, we know that their risk of death or serious illness from the flu is lower if immunized.
Other vaccines need to be given on time as often as possible to prevent some of the common vaccine-preventable illnesses such as Pertussis, Meningitis, Pneumonia, Rotavirus, Measles, Mumps and Varicella. We can’t prevent all illnesses but we do know that these serious and potentially life-threatening vaccine-preventable infections are much less common in immunized children.
Consider Anti-Influenza medication such as Tamiflu in the early stages of the illness if possible and for asymptomatic close contacts of people with Influenza to help the illness resolve quickly. If you suspect Influenza in you or your child, see your health care provider as soon as possible because these medications are most helpful when given within 2 days of symptom onset or sometimes before symptoms occur.
Wash hands and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the day. Teach your child to not put his or her hands near their face unless they just washed their hands, including before meals and snacks, after using the restroom and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose. Teach your child to use tissues properly and to not cough or sneeze on others. Be courteous when your child is sick and do not send him or her to school when significantly ill, especially with fever, vomiting or diarrhea.
Keep your child’s immune system as healthy as possible with a healthy diet, regular meals, lots of fruits and veggies, plenty of fluids and plenty of sleep. Try to keep stress at bay with fun family activities and quality time with your child every day. Stress control helps to keep the immune system healthy and able to fight off illness. Avoid cigarette exposures and other respiratory irritants which can damage the respiratory tract. Cigarette smoke exposure makes children and adults more vulnerable to infections.
Regularly clean surfaces such and countertops, sinks, phones, light switches, doorknobs, etc. especially when someone at home is sick. Teach your child not to put nonfood items in their mouth. Wintertime can be rough with respect to the number of infectious diseases out there but there is a lot you can do to help keep your family and your children as healthy as possible!