And with more than 200 cold viruses identified, it’s no wonder parents feel like they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to keeping their kids healthy.
“Kids will be exposed to germs and inevitably get colds, even with the best preventive measures, and that’s OK,” said Jessica McIntyre, MD, family physician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
According to McIntyre, young children will get between 7 and 8 colds a year and school-age children will average 5-6 colds a year. Kids tend to get more colds during the school year because they are in an enclosed classroom surrounded by other children who are sharing these very common viruses.
“Parents sometimes worry that they have done something wrong to cause frequent colds, or that their child is not healthy. Actually, cold viruses help build a child’s immune system and are an unavoidable part of growing up,” McIntyre said.
- You’ve taught your kids their ABCs – now teach them their CCCs?
a. Clean – wash your hands and make sure your kids wash their hands frequently
b. Cover – cover your cough and sneeze, preferably with a tissue, but if one is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow
c. Contain – stay at home if you are sick; germs are one thing that aren’t good to share
- Family flu vaccines. Everyone who is 6 months or older should be vaccinated. Talk to your physician about which type of vaccine is right for your family members.
- Have your children wash their hands as soon as they get home from school.
- Change into “home clothes and shoes.” It helps keep germs, allergens and dirt out of the house making it easier to keep clean. Plus, you won’t be searching the house for shoes that were kicked off under the couch.This is especially beneficial if you have a young infant at home
- Wash their lunch box daily. Lunch boxes carry more than veggies and fruit to and from school. They also carry A LOT of germs. If they’re dishwasher safe, run them through the sanitizing cycle at the end of each day. If not, spray them down with vinegar and water and wipe them clean before packing a new lunch
- Backpacks are another huge germ culprit. They make their way onto tables, beds and desks and can transfer nasty germs to all of these surfaces. Wash backpacks once a week to minimize the spread of germs.
- Reduce consumption of sugary foods before and during school. Consuming just a teaspoon of sugar weakens the immune system for up to 4 hours. To help the body fight germs, make sure to offer a low sugar breakfast and low sugar lunch. Avoid processed foods as much as possible. They are generally loaded with sugars.
And if you’d still like to do more to keep your little darlings safe, there is some evidence that certain products can be effective in cold prevention if taken regularly:
(i) Probiotics: 1 gram mixed with milk twice daily
(ii) Vitamin C: 1 gram daily
(iii) Zinc sulfate: 15 mg syrup or 10 mg tablet daily
Despite all that, if they do develop a cold, don’t stress about it! Everyone gets sick sometimes. And while we all hate to see kids feeling bad, just remember, when they get sick their bodies are building up their ability to fight future infections.