1. Be Vigilant on Bedtimes and Sleep
Sleep is the time when our bodies rest, recover, and build up defenses against the constant barrage of germs we come in contact with every day. Skimping on sleep means that our bodies have less time to heal and prepare. Kids need more sleep than adults, in fact, the average elementary school student should be getting 9-12 hours a night! (See the current child sleep recommendations here). So the next time your child complains at bedtime, you can tell them that you’re helping them stay healthier!
2. Stick to a Balanced Diet
It shouldn’t come as much surprise that healthier foods create healthier bodies.
Be sure to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables into your family meals as possible (you can never have too many!) Protein, “good” fats, whole grains like quinoa (also a source of protein), and a daily multivitamin can also bulk up your child’s defenses.
There is the common misconception that Vitamin C can prevent or cure a cold (it won’t). However, studies show that Vitamin C can shorten the length of some colds1, and that’s still pretty awesome!
3. Get Moving
In both kids and adults, regular daily exercise is shown to strengthen immune systems and even lower the chance of getting a cold. Whether it’s participating in a team sport, or taking an evening walk around the neighborhood as a family, encouraging your kids to stay active will make their bodies stronger both inside and out!
4. Wash Those Hands
One of the ways colds and the flu are spread is by contact — either touching a person who is infected, or a surface that has germs on it. The first and best line of defense is washing hands thoroughly. Here’s how to do it properly:
5. Don't Touch Your Face
Let’s face it, kids are going to touch things. They’re going to get dirty and they’re likely going to come in contact with plenty of germs. The key is making sure those germs don’t enter the body! Teaching kids not to touch their eyes, mouth, and nose can help prevent infection between hand washings. Realistically, kids are probably still going to touch their face and stick their hands in their mouth, but it’s worth a try!
6. Kids Get Dirty; Let Them
This might seem counterintuitive, but evidence shows that “dirty” outdoor play helps kids stay healthier for the rest of their lives. Contact with a variety of bacteria at an early age builds our immune systems. Essentially, this is how our bodies learn how to fight off harmful microbes.
7. Break Out the Humidifier
A humidifiers put moisture back into the air, making nasal passages happy. Using a humidifier in the home combats the dry air created by central heating systems during winter months, which can irritate and dry out the skin, throat, and nasal passages.
8. Know the Symptoms of the Flu
Symptoms of a cold and the flu are often similar. However, symptoms of the flu are usually more severe and develop more rapidly. Fever is one of the most common symptoms to watch out for — as an elevated temperature is one way that our immune system protects and defends our bodies.
9. Spread Love, Not Germs
If you think your child is coming down with a cold or the flu, it’s important to keep them from spreading the illness to their friends and classmates. According to the CDC, a person with the flu is contagious for up to the first 5-7 days of illness, and may even be contagious a day before symptoms are obvious. Also, if your child isn’t feeling well, giving them time to rest and recover at home may also help them recover faster.