Are you prepared for the flu season this year? Each year different strains of the flu and scientist analyze data that is collected from 142 national influenza centers in 113 different countries (further reading on how flu vaccines are made) to determine which virus is expected to make its rounds during the next flu season. Vaccines aren’t perfect but they do save lives when they predict the right strain of vaccine to make each year. The flu season usually begins to peak in November and can last to May of the next year.
Disclosure: We are not doctors or health care practitioners. All opinions are based upon our own experiences throughout the years.
It is already a few days into the month of November, now is the time to take action and teach your children important flu prevention tips. We all know that kids are more likely to pick up the flu virus, simply because they are around other children at school. Occasionally, kids are sent to school with mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. We want to give you a through checklist so that you can talk to your children about reducing their chances of getting the flu.
Get a Flu Shot
The flu shot is a tool to help prevent the flu. Flu shots help boost your child’s immune system and build immunity to the virus. Shots don’t contain a live virus and will not make your sick. However, getting the flu vaccine may temporarily weaken your immune system and cause you to contract an illness including the flu virus. It takes up to two weeks for your body to build immunity to the flu virus. It is the best way to protect your child from contracting the virus.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
As your children go about their day, they are likely touching items that are contaminated with the flu virus or other icky germs that could make them sick. Frequent hand-washing will wash away all the germs including the flu virus.
Your child needs to use soap and warm water and rub their hands for 15 to 20 seconds. My mom always told me to rub my hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice. If possible, we recommend teaching your children to use a paper towel to turn off the water and open the bathroom door. The paper towel will help prevent them from picking up germs again.
Buy them a Personal Sized Bottle of Hand Sanitizer
During flu season, we suggest that you arm your child with a personal sized bottle of hand sanitizer. Make sure that you pick up a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer is just as effective as washing your hands when a sink isn’t available. A personal sized bottle is small enough for your child to keep in their desk so they can use it frequently.
Ensure They Get Enough Sleep
Are your kids getting enough sleep at night? Young kids need more sleep than an average adult. While the average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep, children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep depending on their age.
According to Diwaker Balachandran, “It is an old wives’ tale that if you don’t sleep well, you will get sick, and there is some experimental data that shows this is true.” Diwakar Balachandran, MD, is the director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. When you don’t get adequate sleep on a regular basis, you are prone to catching colds and other illnesses, including the H1N1 virus (aka the flu).
Encourage Your Child to Stay Physically Active
Once the time changes and it gets dark outside early, kids are less likely to play outside or get enough exercise outside of school. The CDC recommends that children, get at least 60 minutes of exercise on a daily basis.
Some kids are able to get some in at school, depending on your school’s physical education and recess programs but most school’s are only able to accommodate around 20 to 30 minutes of exercise between PE and recess. With that said, kids should get at least 30 more minutes of exercise each day.
Regular exercise is proven to improve your immune system and ward off illness. Plus, exercise releases feel-good hormones that help your child sleep better at night.
Teach them to Stop Putting Things In Their Mouth
This is a tough habit to break even as an adult. Now is a great time to reiterate to them that they need to stop putting things in their mouth. Teach them that it is gross to put objects such as a pen, their fingers, other objects, or biting their nails. Explain to them that each time they are putting objects or their hands in their mouth, even touching their face that they are ingesting germs and bacteria into their body, including the flu virus.
End Nose Picking Once and For All
Kid’s are notorious for picking their nose to remove boogers instead of using a kleenex or toilet paper. Now is the perfect time to reiterate that germs live in their nose and when they pick their nose they are spreading germs. Plus, excessive nose picking can lead to nosebleeds.
Encourage Your Child to Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Eating a healthy diet not only keeps your child from gaining too much weight but eating healthy naturally boosts their immune system. We totally understand that kids are picky eaters and tend to frown when they are offered fruits and vegetables. But even the pickiest of kids can learn how to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables instead of junk food. Look for an article soon.
Always Cover your Mouth When Coughing and your Nose When Sneezing
During the winter months, it isn’t uncommon for kids to be at school with the sniffles, occasional sneezing, and coughing. As long as parents are following the school’s rules when it comes to keeping kids at home when they are sick, then there isn’t much you can do to stop them from coming to school. Always teach your child to cover their mouth and nose when they are coughing or sneezing. They can either cough or sneeze into a kleenex, paper towel, or into their sleeve between your elbow. This helps prevent germs from flying around the classroom.
Avoid Close Contact
With cold and flu season just beginning, now is the time to avoid close contact with others especially those who are sick. We can’t place our children in a bubble when other’s come to school sick but we can teach them not to hold hands, hug, invade their space, or get too close to others. The goal is to teach your kids that close contact with people who appear sick can spread germs.
Children should be drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water helps flush toxins and eliminate waste from the body. A build of toxins and waste in the body can weaken your child’s immune system and leave them vulnerable to catching colds, the flu, and other germs. Pick your child out an insulated water bottle so that they always have cold water available to sip on throughout the day.
Keep Your Child Home When They are Sick
It is important to keep your child home when they are sick. This helps stop the spread of germs that cause colds, flu, and other common infections like strep. If your child gets sick during the school day, inform your child to go to the nurse’s office for an evaluation. The nurse will call you to come to the school and pick them up if the nurse feels that your child is sick enough to go home for the day.