It’s December, which means cold and flu season is officially upon us. Perhaps you’ve even already begun to hear the telltale coughs, nose-blowing, and hoarse voices. But there’s hope. Although it may feel like it, you’re not actually powerless against what’s going around. It turns out there are a lot of ways you help prevent your kids (and yourself) from getting sick. Below, we’ve rounded up 6 of the best ways to keep your kids healthy this cold and flu season.
Get Your Family Vaccinated
This is the first and most obvious way to protect against the flu. The flu vaccine works by injecting a small amount of inactivated flu virus into the body so that it can make antibodies to fight it off. Then, if you’re exposed to the flu later on in the season, the antibodies will be able to fight them off. And because it takes 10 days to two weeks to become fully effective, the sooner you can get everyone vaccinated, the better.
Load Up on Garlic
While this may not sound like the most appealing option, studies have shown that garlic, specifically garlic supplements, can lead to fewer and less severe colds. Anita Mirchandani, a registered dietitian, told Daily Burn that garlic, “helps promote healthy gut flora, which rids the body of toxins, bacteria, and viruses.”
Encourage Hand Washing
We’ve all heard it before, but this tip can’t be emphasized enough. And while it sounds self-explanatory, there are actually tips to make hand washing more effective. First, make sure your kids are washing with warm water and plenty of soap that works up a good lather. It’s important to wash for at least 10-15 seconds, so have them sing the alphabet or “happy birthday” as a gauge. And remind them to turn off the faucet and open the door with a paper towel if they’re in a public place to avoid picking up new germs.
Keep Toy and Play Areas Clean
Cold germs can linger on toys for hours, and in some cases, even days, so to prevent spreading them it’s important to clean toys and play areas regularly during cold and flu season. Simply washing most plastic toys with soap and hot water is an effective way to get rid of germs. For stuffed animals and other plush toys, throw them in the washing machine on the hot setting to make sure any germs are taken care of.
Ensure They’re Getting Enough Sleep
While getting adequate sleep is always important, it’s especially crucial during the months where viruses are running rampant. A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that people who sleep less or have a poor quality of sleep, are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a cold virus than those who get adequate sleep. Be vigilant about ensuring that your kids have a consistent bedtime schedule that permits 10 to 13 hours of sleep for 3-5-year-olds and 9 to 12 hours for school-aged children. If you’re having trouble getting them to sleep, try creating a “wind-down” routine that involves reading, a warm bath, or another soothing activity and limit screen time in the evening which can be too stimulating.
Promote Active Play
According to WebMD, some studies have shown that “moderate intensity” exercise can cut down on the number of colds people get. This type of exercise includes walking, biking, or going to the gym. For kids, that can translate to active play that gets their hearts pumping a bit. In the colder months, it’s important to encourage active play because kids are often inside more, and thus more likely to be engaging in sedentary activities.