Winter's great when it means snow days, hot chocolate by the fire and cuddling up under one big blanket as a family to read before bed.
It's not so great when it means coughs, sniffles and sneezes; multiple trips to the doctor; and oodles of co-pay fees.
While there's not much you can do to keep other people from sending their sick kids to school, there are things you can do to help keep your own child from getting sick, even if she's around others who are.
Here's to a winter with fewer colds and less time and money spent on doctors.
Start With the Basics
Three simple things can do wonders to help keep your kid healthy during cold and flu season—i.e., now.
- Wash Hands Like a Pro. It's not enough to just tell your child that she should wash her hands after using the bathroom, before and after eating and any time she comes in contact with someone who is sick. You should demonstrate the correct way to wash hands. Wet your hands under warm running water (warm is more effective than cold at removing dirt and germs) and use liquid or bar soap to lather up. Scrub for 15 to 20 seconds (tell young kids to hum "Happy Birthday" in their heads twice through). Also: Teach them to keep their hands away from their noses and mouths after touching anything that could be contaminated, until they can wash them properly.
- Preach "The Three Nos." Teach your child to avoid putting her hands near her eyes, nose and mouth, whether or not she thinks she's touched anything suspect. This is especially important to prevent the spread of pinkeye, a common infection kids get ... and spread.
- Perfect the Elbow Sneeze. Show your child how to cover up a sneeze by sneezing into his elbow, so he won't transmit any germs he may be carrying to his hands.
If your kid is young, you're probably doing everything you can to teach her to share her things with others. When it comes to food and drink, though, rethink that policy. Contact with food is one of the top ways that infections spread, especially those that are spread through a sick person's saliva, like mono. (Mononucleosis might be nicknamed "the kissing disease," but it's also widely spread through sharing food and drink.) Try not to share any food or drink at your own house to train her to avoid sharing with kids at school who may be sick.
How Do You Keep Your Kids Healthy?
What tips and tricks do you use to keep your children healthy this season?
It goes without saying that sleep is essential to staying healthy. Getting the right amount will help reenergize your child's body and brain. Plus, kids who are tired are more likely to have mood disturbances, impaired learning and difficulty concentrating in school.
If your kid has trouble sleeping, create a calming atmosphere about 30 minutes before bedtime. Have him take a bath or read—but don't allow television or computer time. Studies have shown that infants and children who watch TV struggle with interrupted sleep and irregular bed and naptime schedules.
How much sleep does a child need? Expert recommend 14 to 15 hours a day for infants, 12 to 14 for toddlers, 11 to 13 for preschoolers and 10 to 11 for school-age kids.
If your kid isn't eating the best foods, it's not for your lack of trying—we know that. However. A nutritious diet does provide protection against a host of different health problems and helps keep your child's immune system fighting off germs. You'll get the most bang for your nutritional buck if you try loading your kid up with "superfoods," or foods that are packed with multiple illness-fighting nutrients. Some include:
- Plain yogurt for its calcium, protein and potassium
- Eggs for their protein, choline, and other vitamins and minerals
- Nuts for their protein, "good" fats, fiber and antioxidant content
- Berries for their antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber
- Beans for their fiber, protein, magnesium and potassium
If any of these don't work for your kids, try some of our other healthy, tasty meals (all for $10 and under), that are so delicious they won't notice the veggies.
Especially for pre-teens and teens, stress can cause headaches, insomnia and stomach pains, as well as mental unrest and a lessening of productivity. Giving your kid techniques to deal with the pressures in her life can help her ward off these effects in the future. Try the following:
- Set realistic expectations. If you have a teenager, there are tests and classes, friends and boyfriends or girlfriends, extracurriculars and, on top of all of that, the looming question—will she get into college? Where should she apply? Teach your child that saying no to some duties and obligations is OK, and that she should focus on one task at a time. The big picture can sometimes seem overwhelming.
- Take time to laugh. Laughing has been proven to lower tension and improve blood flow to the heart. Plus, it's the easiest thing to do. Pop in a funny movie or watch a favorite sitcom, and you're done.
- Exercise. Even a 20-minute walk or jog can yield up to 12 hours of improved mood, so it's important that your kid gets enough exercise, no matter how busy he is. Find out what type of exercise appeals to each, whether it's indoor soccer, ballet or running track. (Check out the what their favorite extracurriculars will cost you.)
- Chew gum. Studies have shown that chewing gum helps relieve anxiety, improves alertness and reduces stress. We say, bring on the bubbles.
Take Those Vitamins
It's true what they say about vitamin C. Although it won't cure a cold if your kid already has one, this vitamin can help ward off sickness in the first place. Unless your child is wolfing down the (hypothetically) recommended nine servings of fruits and veggies every day, consider having them take a vitamin C supplement. This is how much to give your kids by age.
The miracle vitamin helps protect against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease eye disease and more.
Tell us—what are some ways you help your child stay healthy?