5 Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Cold and flu season. Every parent dreads it. It can feel crippling knowing there is likely a sneeze coming in your child’s direction or a kid with a fever drooling on your day care’s set of Legos. Remember: Kids are still building their immune systems, so it’s normal for them to get sick frequently. “I have parents tell me that they can remember more days when their kid had a runny nose than days when they didn’t,” says Aimée Kahn, M.D., M.P.H., pediatrician at Crystal Run Healthcare in Nyack. This year, get ahead of the cold and flu game by instilling these simple practices in your children and taking these precautions, as suggested by Dr. Kahn.

Wash your hands.

It’s one of the most important things you, your child, or anyone can do to prevent spreading infection. Teach your children to wash before eating, after playtime, after playgroup, and after using the bathroom, Dr. Kahn suggests. Properly washing your hands means wetting, cleaning with soap for 10-15 seconds, and rinsing completely. Also emphasize sneezing and coughing into a sleeve or tissue and then throwing that tissue away. 

Get your vaccinations.

Especially this flu season, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your children from the flu. A record number of 183 pediatric deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control during the 2017-2018 season. Approximately 80 percent of the deaths occurred in children who did not receive a flu vaccination, according to the CDC. Many parents are concerned that their child can contract the flu from the virus itself. “The injection is not a live vaccine, so if you are feeling under the weather after receiving the vaccine, it is simply your body’s auto immune response. It may make you feel under the weather, but you’re not getting the flu from the flu shot. In fact, it is nothing compared to the actual flu,” Dr. Kahn says.

Maintain a healthy diet.

Of course, your child should also be getting all the vitamins she needs—something that will happen as long as she’s eating a healthy, nutritious diet (though you can’t go wrong with a multivitamin!). Also check that your county’s water supply has fluoride in it. If not, you may want to make sure your child is getting the right amount of fluoride, Dr. Kahn suggests.

Don’t let your child share things that go in his mouth.

After spending the last few years teaching your child the importance of sharing, flu season is the time to throw those lessons out the window. Well, at least for utensils, pacifiers, cups, and other items that go in your child’s mouth, Dr. Kahn stresses. Even if a child in playgroup is not showing symptoms of a cold or flu, there is often an incubation period when she is contagious anyway, so it is best not to share these things ever. If your child drops his pacifier, don’t be so quick to give it a swift wipe and pop it back in his mouth. Germs are everywhere.


Know when to take your child to the doctor.

Although kids do get sick frequently, it’s important to know the signs that it is time to get your child evaluated by a pediatrician. If he has a high fever that won’t come down with Tylenol or Motrin, you should see the doctor. Once your child is fever-free, wait 24 hours before letting her go back to school. Think about it: Would you want someone else sending their sick kid into school to cough all over your child? Perhaps most importantly, if your child shows any signs of difficulty breathing, including fast breathing, nasal flaring, and using extra muscles to breathe, you should take her to the doctor immediately, Dr. Kahn says.