Cold, winter weather means that cold and flu season is in full swing. Many illnesses during this time of year are caused by viruses, such as RSV, influenza, and COVID-19. While most cases of illness in kids are mild, they can sometimes lead to more severe infection or complications. While mild cases can be treated at home, more serious symptoms may warrant a visit to the pediatrician. If you want your kids to stay healthy during this season full of viral infections, check out these tips!
The best ways to avoid illness are simple.
Parents can do their best to avoid illness by preventing the spread of germs through simple practices such as hand washing, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching your mouth or eyes frequently, and disinfecting surfaces.
Parents can have their children wash hands after coming home from daycare, getting home from school, running errands, or going to the park. Caregivers can get in the practice of regularly disinfecting surfaces, such as frequently touched objects and toys.
Talk to your doctor about getting the ideal vaccines.
Although vaccines are not perfect, they have been proven to be very effective forms of protection against illnesses such as COVID-19 and the flu. It is important to speak to your child’s pediatrician about what vaccines are appropriate for their age and development, and whether they will be beneficial ways of preventing illness during flu season.
Get as much fresh air as possible.
During the chilly winter months, it can be tough to get outside and breath fresh air. However, it’s important to have proper ventilation and air flow, and allow your house to air out once in a while. When the temperature is appropriate, allow your kids to get outside and play. Open the windows or screen doors once in a while and allow air flow in your house.
Know the difference between the common cold and more serious infections.
There are many myths and old wives tales about the common cold, but it is important to know what information is rooted in science.
Take these facts, for example:
The color of your child’s mucus does not indicate whether they have a bacterial infection.
It is acceptable to get vaccines when a child is mildly ill.
You cannot catch a cold from being outside in the cold.
Orange juice does not prevent illness.
Vitamin C is not a cure-all for a cold.
Symptoms and treatment of common cold and flu viruses:
Symptoms of the common cold include mild muscle aches, stuffy nose, cough, congestion, headache, low-grade fever, and runny nose.
Most mild colds can be treated at home with simple remedies and support. Symptoms that might indicate your child needs medical attention include signs of dehydration, respiratory distress, or secondary infections. Parents should monitor their child’s urinary output (or number of diapers for infants), breathing patterns, and the child’s temperature.
If the illness lasts longer than two weeks or the fever lasts longer than four days, it’s time to see a doctor. If a child’s breathing is fast, heavy, indicates that they’re using the muscles between the ribs to breathe, or their nostrils flare when they breathe, they might be experiencing respiratory distress and need immediate medical attention.
A cough is usually not worrisome and is the body’s natural mechanism for protecting the lungs from a buildup of mucus. Cough medicine and suppressants are not safe for most children. Honey is an effective way of treating a cough, as long as the child is over age 1. Warm water with lemon is another good remedy, as well as a hot shower.
A bark-like cough or croup can be alleviated by breathing in cold air outside or even from the refrigerator. Coughs are a normal part of illness and can last several weeks after the initial symptoms. Older kids can use cough drops or drink decaffeinated tea to help deal with coughs.
Body aches, fever, and sore throat can be treated with children’s acetaminophen, given at the correct dose for a child’s age and weight.
Consider mask-wearing in busy public places.
Wearing masks in public, especially in busy areas, can be an effective way to avoid illness and avoid spreading illness to others. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has acknowledged that wearing masks helps slow the transmission of COVID-19, but it can also be beneficial in preventing the spread of other illnesses, generally speaking.
Viral load tends to peak in the days before symptoms begin, and actions such as sneezing, breathing, talking, or coughing around others when sick can spread germs more quickly. Studies show that people who have influenza or the common cold who wear masks greatly reduce the amount of respiratory viruses emitted in droplets and aerosols.
Masks can prevent viral transmission in high-risk scenarios as well and might be an important part of staying healthy during cold and flu season.
Keep sick kids home and allow them to rest.
One of the best ways to survive cold and flu season is to simply get enough rest and keep sick kids at home. Adults and kids who are feeling ill should stay home until their fever is gone and symptoms start to subside.
An important aspect of health is getting enough sleep, and taking the time to rest up, drink plenty of fluids, treat fevers, and relax when feeling sick.
Sick children and adults should stay home until they feel better, or are cleared by a doctor to return to normal activities. Continue washing hands and sanitizing household surfaces for the duration of the sickness.
Stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet.
Hydration and a healthy diet are important factors in getting through winter months full of viruses. If your children are sick, make sure to increase their fluid intake (water, breast milk, formula, cow’s milk, etc) and monitor your child’s urine output (at least 3-4 times in 24-hour period). If you have an infant, pay attention to the number of wet diapers they have in a day.
If your child feels unwell and has a hard time eating, that is normal and to be expected. One of the most important things to be healthy is to stay hydrated, even if the child doesn’t feel like eating. A loss of appetite is okay. Parents can encourage hydrating foods like Jello, soup, watermelon, or popsicles until their child returns to health.
Know the importance of sleep and rest.
Sleep is a vital part of overall health. Toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep, preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep, school-age kids need 9-13 hours of sleep, and teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep. Proper sleep hygiene is essential for many aspects of health, including growth, immune function, and behavior.
Every family should prioritize getting enough sleep at night. Creating a night time routine can be helpful in allowing kids to relax before bed and fall asleep easier. The nightly routine can include baths, massage, reading books, having a light snack, or stretching. When the whole family makes sleep a priority, everyone will have an easier time avoiding illness.
Stay healthy this season by following these tips.
From the flu shot, to immune system boosts, to getting enough rest and hydration, there are many ways that families can survive cold and flu season this year!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.