Colder weather is upon us, which means the flu and other winter illnesses will soon follow. Contrary to popular belief, the cold weather itself, or getting caught outside on a cold, rainy day, doesn’t make us sick.
But certain viruses, including the flu and the virus that causes the common cold, seem to thrive in cool, dry winter air. People are also more likely to stay indoors in cooler weather, putting them in more frequent close contact with household objects and other people, both of which may harbor germs. And it’s a time when our bodies tend to get run down, because of darker days and longer nights, less vitamin D from sunshine, less activity and holiday exhaustion.
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Children seem to bear the brunt of winter illnesses and get sick frequently, mainly because their immune systems are less developed and they are always in close contact with other children, making it easier to share germs. But just because they’re more susceptible doesn’t mean you can’t try to minimize the effects of cold, flu and other infections on your family. As pediatricians, we’re exposed to all kinds of germs year-round, and we are old pros at preventing and battling sickness. Here are some measures that, in our experience, can help make those nasty illnesses less frequent, or at least less severe.
It seems like ridiculously basic advice, but when germs are everywhere it really is your best defense against spreading them. Encourage your kids to wash properly, with soap, rather than just quickly rinsing their hands in the sink. This requires kids to rinse, lather and scrub for at least 20 seconds before doing a final rinse and then drying with a clean towel, or letting their hands air dry. Try to make it fun by having them sing the ABCs or another favorite tune while washing. Observe and help them until your kids are reliably doing this on their own and have made good hand hygiene a habit throughout the day. Washing with soap and water is generally better than using a hand sanitizer, but sanitizer is certainly better than nothing at all, so keep it handy when you are…
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