By Jeff Gaborko, MD, pediatrician
Special to Dixon Patch
Now that temperatures have dropped and we are bundling up our little ones as they leave for school in the morning, it’s important to remember that cold and flu season is here. School-age kids are particularly vulnerable to the spread of colds, viral and bacterial infections. But there are steps you can take to make sure your kids stay healthy throughout the winter season.
Wash Hands Frequently
Proper hand washing is an effective way to avoid spreading germs. Just 15 to 20 seconds of hand washing (or enough time to sing Happy Birthday twice), using water and soap can reduce the risk of transmitting diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hand washing is the single most important means of preventing infection from spreading. If you don’t have access to a sink, hand sanitizer is another good option.
Make sure your children are up to date on all of their vaccinations. Vaccines not only protect your child, but the children around them. Check with your pediatrician for a list of vaccines your child should have based on their age.
Get a Flu Shot
Along with regular vaccinations, the flu shot is a good way to reduce your child’s risk of catching the flu, or worse, developing more serious complications from the flu. The flu vaccine is recommended for all children six months and older. Now is the time to get your children a flu shot. A nasal spray is also available. Contact your pediatrician or county health department for a list of places where the vaccine is available.
Encourage Physical Activity
Although it may be cold outside, it’s still important for your child to exercise, which also can be a great way to keep them healthy. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day can help boost a child’s immune system and encourage them to live a long, healthy and active life. There are ways to stay active indoors as well. Jumping jacks, running in place, even a quick game of Dance Dance Revolution on the Nintendo Wii system can get the heart pumping.
Get Enough Sleep
Children need about 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Those who don’t get enough sleep will have difficulty paying attention in school. Their body also won’t have as much energy to fight off infection. Keep to a strict nighttime schedule to make sure your children remain well-rested.
Sick? Stay Home.
If your child does have a fever, bad cough or is vomiting or has diarrhea, make sure to keep them at home. Not only will the prolonged rest help them recover faster, it will prevent other children from coming down with the same symptoms and stop the spread of disease.