Infectious Disease

Keeping Your Child Healthy During Cold Season

By Denise Warrick, MD
TriHealth Group Health - Anderson

You are the parents of a three-year-old girl who attends preschool.  Your preschooler loves going to school-playing and learning with all her new-found friends. You are ecstatic that she loves school but are also frustrated. She seems to get sick all the time and infects the whole house including you and your other children with her germs.  Over the past four weeks, you have been to your pediatrician’s office twice for “colds.” The next time you are in the office, you ask your friendly pediatrician why she is getting sick all the time and what you can do to prevent your daughter from getting sick?

Why is my child sick all the time?

A child’s immune system is not as well developed as that of an adult. They are more susceptible to infections since their immune system is not as equipped to fight it off. Kids in school are in close contact with one another and tend to have habits like sticking their fingers or toys in their mouth which predispose to the spread of germs.

Toddler and preschool age children can get one or two viral illnesses per month.  If a typical viral illness can last seven to ten days, this means your child may be sick for most days out of a month. While illness can be inconvenient at times for parents, it is healthy for their child’s immune system to be exposed to these illnesses.  Their immune systems will build “immunity” or protection against these and similar illnesses which will protect them from getting sick when they are older.

How can I prevent my child from getting sick?

  • Wash your hands: It may sound too easy but basic hygiene practices are one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs.  Washing your hands often, especially after using the bathroom and prior to eating can significantly prevent the spread of germs.  Ideally, we recommend washing hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds (time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday Song” twice).  Alcohol based hand sanitizers or wipes are a good alternative if you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Covering your mouth: You may still hear your mother’s words in the back of your head every time you cough or sneeze, but she was right!  Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Preferably, sneeze into your forearm/elbow or tissue that way you are not getting germs all over your hands.  Also, encourage your child to avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose which is how viruses are usually spread.
  • Get vaccinated: Make sure your child is up-to-date on their routine childhood vaccines including the flu vaccination. Flu vaccine is the best way to protect against getting influenza.  There has been concern in recent years about the flu vaccine not being particularly effective. The Centers for Disease Control does expect the 2018 flu vaccine to be effective this year.  If you get the flu despite getting the vaccine, it tends to be a much milder version. Most importantly, the flu vaccine protects against the severe complications of influenza which could lead to hospitalization or death.
  • Keep your child home when sick: Don’t bring your child to school or around other children or people if he or she is sick. This way your child is not spreading germs to other children. A good rule of thumb is that they can return to daycare or school once fever free x 24 hours. If you have question of when your sick child can return to school, check with your doctor.  
  • Healthy habits: You can encourage your child’s immune system to stay healthy by ensuring other healthy habits like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, avoiding stress and getting adequate sleep. We recommend 10-14 hours of sleep per day for toddler and preschool aged children.

By following these recommendations, hopefully you and your family can stay healthy this winter season.

Tags Infectious Disease , Parenting , Prevention and Early Detection