The change of seasons is well upon us and it’s time to look at the ways you can keep your family healthy as the temperature drops. Even though colds and the flu are infecting schools, daycares, work, and homes at this time every year, you shouldn’t give in to these germs without a fight!
At Alzein Pediatrics, we know that now is the perfect time to start implementing strategies that will help keep your family healthy and happy all through these long winter months.
So what can you do to prevent illness throughout the most miserable time of the year?
1. Wash Your Hands
It’s so simple and easy, but so very effective! Regular hand washing is the very best way to get rid of cold and flu bugs. Teach your child the importance of using soap and warm water before meals and snacks and as soon he or she comes home from school, daycare, the playground or a friend’s house.
The CDC estimates that children who practice proper hygiene miss only 2.42 days of school a year while children who do not wash hands often will miss 3.02 days a year. Teach your kids to sing “Happy Birthday” twice – that’s about 15 to 20 seconds of washing – while lathering thoroughly, rubbing fronts and backs of each hand and between all fingers, and then rinsing in warm (not hot) water.
Don’t forget about your hands – especially before preparing food and after you change a diaper or wipe a runny nose.
Using plain soap and warm water is your best bet; there is no need to use antibacterial soap. In fact, the FDA is phasing out many active antibacterial ingredients in soaps and body washes as these ingredients are proven to create “superbugs”, germs that are impervious to antibiotics.
Be vigilant about your child’s caregiver’s handwashing habits as well. If your child is in daycare, ask about the hand-washing policy and don’t be shy about requesting a change if it’s unsatisfactory. Remind your caregivers that this protects their health as well.
Washing your hands with soap and water is your best line of defense against illness. When you can’t make it to a sink, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel-like Purel can fight germs and bacteria as well, including the viruses that cause colds and the flu.
2. Boost Your Child’s Immunity Naturally
Lack of good nutrition can make you and your little ones sick. Make sure your children get healthy, well-balanced meals and regular snacks daily, giving their bodies the vitamins and minerals they need to fight off mild infections, give them energy and keep them healthy.
Provide lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
3. Get Your Child Vaccinated
This is another simple and easy tip – you can help protect your family from influenza (or the flu) by ensuring everyone in your family over the age of 6 months gets a yearly flu shot. Not only will this protect your children, but it will also protect everyone they come in contact with, from seniors to infants to the medically-fragile and those with weakened immune systems.
Satisfying, refreshing sleep is one of the most important things we can do to give our bodies defense against illness this winter. Each adult member of your family should get at least 7 hours of restful sleep each night. Teens should get 9-10 hours of sleep, kids ages 3-10 should get 10-12 hours each day, toddlers about 12-14 hours each day and infants 14-16 hours each day.
While it’s practically inevitable that you or your child may get the sniffles this winter, implementing these germ-fighting strategies can shorten the illness and prevent it from spreading to other family members.
5. In the Bedroom
- Wash all bed sheets weekly in hot water.
- Vacuum the mattress on each side and spray with a disinfecting spray until damp. Let one side of the mattress dry before spraying the other side.
- Vacuum the pillows and spray with disinfecting spray and let dry.
- Use disinfectant on hard surfaces like the doorknobs, window sills, furniture pulls/knobs and allow the surfaces to dry.
- When a family member is sick, place a wastebasket near the bed or couch to catch all used tissues. Line the basket with a plastic bag to minimize contact with germs. Empty it at least once a day, replacing bags each time.
6. In the Bathroom
- Clean the bathroom as frequently as possible, wiping bathroom floors and surfaces with a disinfectant cleaner. Do a thorough “deep cleaning” once a month. When a family member has had the flu or diarrhea, make cleaning the bathroom a priority after each use of the toilet.
- Use a cleanser with bleach to disinfect. You can purchase a ready-made bleach-based cleaner or make your own bleach solution, with 1 cup of bleach mixed in 1 gallon of water.
- Pay special attention to the toilet bowl. Scrub the bowl with soap, disinfectant, and a brush frequently. Let the bleach solution sit on the bowl and seat surface for 10 minutes before rinsing with soapy water.
- Keep shower walls and floors free of mold and mildew. Your shower curtain should be changed or washed in a bleach solution every three to six months.
- Keep a spray bottle of the bleach solution or packaged disinfectant wipes handy for spot cleaning bathroom germs.
- Use paper towels to prevent the spread of germs and use a clean towel for every person for each bath or shower.
- Cleaning sponges can harbor bacteria. Instead of reusing them, use towels rags and run them through your washer on the “hot” setting with bleach.
- Keep toothbrushes uncovered and replace them with new brushes every 3 months. When someone is sick, isolate the toothbrush of the sick person from those of other family members and replace them when the person recovers.
7. In the Playroom
Toys are germ magnets! One-touch of a germ-infested toy by your healthy child, who then puts a hand to mouth, nose or face, will promptly turn them into a sick child.
Clean your kids’ toys thoroughly to stop the spread of germs. Don’t forget the stuffed animals; soft surfaces are germ carriers too!
- Wipe off dirt and debris from nonporous toys with a cloth dampened with disinfectant, or wash them in the dishwasher every few days.
- Toss fabric toys into the washing machine, on a gentle cycle, using detergent and warm water.
- Clean the play area where your child spends their time. Vacuum the carpets, mop the floors, and disinfect the furniture and other surfaces to keep play spaces clean and germ-free.
8. In the Car
A dirty, cluttered car is a breeding ground for germs.
- After each and every trip, pick up all the trash that has accumulated in the car. Trash actually causes bacteria and fungi to grow on your floor and in your vents.
- Wipe out the cup holders with disinfectant wipes.
- Clean seatbelts using a cloth dipped in hot, soapy water or white vinegar. A thorough spray with a good disinfectant will also kill germs.
- Vacuum regularly. Take the mats out, shake and vacuum them, and use a shampoo made for cleaning automobile mats.
9. Lunch Bags and Boxes
Make sure to clean your child’s lunch bag or box once a week. Clean more frequently when spills happen.
- Fill the sink with warm water. Add a teaspoon of detergent and submerge the box into the water.
- Wipe over the lunch bag, paying particular attention to corners.
- Use a small brush to clean crumbs from zippers and remove dirt and food from seams.
- Rinse with clean water and pat dry with a towel.
- Leave it on the dishrack to dry overnight, or hang to thoroughly dry.
- If the lunch bag smells, sprinkle baking soda into the bag, including corners and seams and let sit overnight. Shake the baking soda out in the morning and wipe over with a damp cloth.
- When the box or bag has a hard surface and is nonporous, you can skip most of these steps and just run it through your dishwasher at least once each week.
Preventing colds, flu and more during the winter season doesn’t have to be impossible.
By following these recommendations from Alzein Pediatrics, your family will get through the cold weather healthy and happy.
About The Author:
Gabe Nelson is a content specialist of over 7 years of experience, currently working for Alzein Pediatrics. Just out of high school he set off crab fishing on the Bering sea in Alaska. From there he went back home to finish his college degree at the University of Montana. He has written hundreds of content pieces in numerous niches. Currently, he lives in Missouri with his wife and kids enjoying the peaceful town of St. Joseph.