Cold weather and snow certainly give little ones plenty of opportunities for play both outdoors and indoors. But as winter approaches, parents need to cautiously watch out for the flu.
As a pediatrician and mom, I see the flu all too often during this season. Still, in addition to a flu vaccine, there are a number of simple steps children and parents can take to enjoy a germ-free winter.
Avoid indoor areas
Indoor areas that bring together a large number of people are a hotbed for germs. That’s because the flu virus spreads easily when respiratory droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze move through the air to the mouth or nose of others in close proximity. If possible, instead of frequenting areas such as indoor play lots or malls this winter, usher your kids outside to enjoy the fresh air if temperatures aren’t dangerously cold.
Practice good hygiene
The flu is easy to catch when a person touches his nose or mouth after touching respiratory droplets on another person or object. Two of the best — and most simple — protective measures you can teach your children are to 1) wash their hands frequently and 2) cough or sneeze into their elbow or shoulder if they don’t have a tissue. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands with soap and clean, warm running water for 20 seconds. I also suggest keeping non-alcohol cleansing wipes, such as MD Moms Cleansing Towelettes Travel Pouch, on your child’s person at all times. When soap and water aren’t available, this is a great alternative to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as their alcohol component can become a safety concern for babies and children who often put their hands in their mouths.
Stick with healthy people
As parents, it’s our job to prevent any germs that we come across from infecting our children. This means doing our best to refrain from coming into close contact with those who are sick. Remember that if we get sick, chances are we’ll get your children sick, too.
It’s important not only to keep your hands clean, but to also keep objects, telephones, computer keyboards/mice and furniture clean—both inside and outside the home. Use disinfectant furniture wipes around surfaces such as door knobs and shopping carts. A combination detergent to clean and disinfectant to kill germs can be used on surfaces that aren’t visibly dirty. When a surface is visibly dirty, use a soap or detergent, rinse with water and then use disinfectant.
Keep sick children at home
If your child does get sick, keep her at home and avoid traveling until she’s feeling better—typically until 24 hours after her fever is gone. This is especially important, as young children may be contagious for longer periods of time. Also, allow her to rest in a room away from the main areas of the house so that you don’t put your family at risk for catching her bug. In addition to rest, antiviral drugs can be used to treat the flu.