Between traveling, going into the city, seeing family, and the weather, there are a million reasons why it’s easier for your kids to get sick during the holidays. And even if you encourage hand washing, proper nutrition, and healthy habits…your kids can still get sick! So how do you differentiate between a common cold and the flu or other upper respiratory infections, establish healthy routines your kids will follow, and know when to keep your child home from school? Gustavo Ferrer, M.D., FCCP, a pulmonologist and author of Cough Cures: The Best Natural Remedies and Over-the-Counter Drugs for Acute and Chronic Cough, is here with tips on how to accomplish all of the above.
Establish routines with your kids.
It can be hard to get your kids to wash their hands and eat their fruits and vegetables, so Ferrer recommends creating a routine and doing it with them. He began washing his hands with his kids as soon as they got home from school when they were about nine years old–and now, as teenagers, they automatically go to the sink when they get home.
If soap and water aren’t nearby, Ferrer recommends hand sanitizer, which will do the trick in a pinch–but doesn’t replace hand washing. Make sure you kids are getting proper nutrition and staying active, as well.
Protect kids with fragile immune systems while traveling.
“During this season, we travel a lot, and we’re maintaining close contact with people for a long time,” Ferrer says. “Planes are becoming smaller and smaller and have more and more people breathing and recirculating the same air, and that increases the transmission of viruses. If the person or child traveling has chronic diseases like chronic bronchitis or asthma, or they have cancer or they’re on chemotherapy, it is strongly advised that they use a protective mask to cover their mouth and nose. On top of that, use protective hygiene.”
Research has also shown that using a nasal spray that combines saline with xylitol can also help prevent and treat the transmission of viruses. Xlear is a popular name brand spray.
Know when to keep your child home.
Even if she is not running a fever, if your child has a runny nose and a cough, keep her home from school, Ferrer says–especially in the first 48 hours of the illness when it’s most transmissible. If by day two, she still has a runny nose but is happy and is eating, there’s no reason to keep her home any longer.
Also know when to get your child to the doctor.
Ferrer explains that the flu often produces a fever that is “sticky,” meaning the sick person stays warm for a long time. This is an easy way to get dehydrated, he says.
“Here are the red flags. If we see a child having a stuffy nose, coughing, a fever, and he’s not eating, and [he is] fussy or crying, and the fever is lasting more than 2 days, I would certainly take him to the doctor. Shortness of breath or phlegm that changes colors rapidly also means it’s time to take him to the doctor,” Ferrer says. “By day two or three, I would be considering taking the child to the hospital.”
For more information on how to keep your kids healthy this season, and to check out a sneak peek of Ferrer’s new book, visit his website.