By Kristi Kiyonaga, MD–The Everett Clinic at Mill Creek
Did you know school-age children may have as many as 6-8 viral “colds” in a single winter season? Many common winter viruses are airborne, which means that your child could become sick simply by being close to and breathing the same air as someone who is ill. Viruses are often contagious before symptoms begin, which means that a person might be infecting others without even knowing that they are sick. But there is hope! Although your child will likely get a few colds this winter, try these strategies to keep them as healthy as possible.
Frequently washing your hands is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stay healthy. Remind your child to wash hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching his or her face. You can also encourage your child to use hand sanitizer and to cough/sneeze into an elbow to keep those hands as germ-free as possible.
Get the flu vaccine.
All of us over 6 months of age need the flu vaccine every single year for two reasons. First, different influenza viruses circulate around the world each year. Therefore the vaccine may change depending on which strains are predicted to cause infection that year. Second, our protection fades 6-12 months after getting the flu vaccine. This year, the Center for Disease Control is recommending the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (a nasal spray!) for most children ages 2-8. The spray has been shown to be more effective than injection in this age group. However if the nasal spray isn’t available get the shot.
Boost your child’s natural immunity.
- Be active. Children should have at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity daily.
- Eat well. Aim for a varied diet with at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits daily.
- Sleep. On average preschoolers and younger children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep per night