Brrr! It’s getting cold out there. Even for a New England raised woman like me. This Winter season, warm or cold, brings with it a lot of viral infections. For little ones new to sharing germs and big ones who’ve been sharing them for years, staying healthy through cold and flu season can be a challenge. Getting exposed to viruses can lead to colds, ear infections, and more seriously influenza and pneumonia. Many viruses children will encounter this season, such as influenza (flu), rhinovirus, adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are spread through droplets or contact. This means the things they touch and the people closest to them can spread germs to your baby, grade schooler and teen. This is especially important during the holiday season where families are gathering and spending time together in close quarters.
What are some things my kids can do to stay healthy during cold/flu season?
Staying healthy is about making the healthy choice more often than we make the unhealthy choice! It’s a balance. The easier something is, the more likely we are to do it. That’s why the motto at Mark9 Pediatrics is making healthy easy.
- Eat Your Nutrients: Throughout the year, stay healthy by getting fruits, whole grains, protein, and vegetables in every meal. This will give you the macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) your body needs to be healthy. Get creative about it. Natural fruit juice and smoothies made with whole fruits (“natural” and “whole” meaning minimally processed with no added sugar). Carrots sticks and low sugar peanut butter. Bananas, berries or raisins with oatmeal or plain yogurt. Fruit smoothies with unflavored almond milk, and spinach or carrots blended in. Pureed rainbow of vegetables mixed into ground lean turkey or chicken. You can also mix pureed vegetables into pasta sauce. Grilled, stir-fried or baked fish. Quinoa and brown rice stir fried with lean meat and peas. Minced mushrooms in scrambled eggs or omelet. The list is almost endless. An important note: Flour is not a whole grain; if it is a flour it is no longer a whole grain. You may not hit every meal every day, that’s ok. Aim high and congratulate yourself for what you accomplish! Your body loves nutrients in food, so be kind to your body.
- Stay Hydrated: You’ve heard that humans are mostly water. Well, it’s true. It’s also true that our bodies rely on water to survive. Dehydration can cause serious and permanent damage to our bodies. The rule of thumb is to drink 1 ounce of water for every kilogram (roughly 1oz for every 2lbs) of body weight. Young infants get this through breast milk or formula. Toddlers and older children need water in a cup. Juice is not a way to get hydration. It has great nutrients if it is made from whole fruits. Smoothies and yogurt “drinks” are food, not drink. Milk also has great nutrients but it is more food than drink, and it is not meant for hydration. Artificially flavored water is not recommended. You can flavor water by infusing with fruits or cucumbers. You can make it fizzy with a soda machine. What matters is that you get enough water into your system to keep it running well and not sputtering. Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, irritability, dry skin and lips, stomach cramps, among other things. Pure, clean water is the best way to stay hydrated.
- Get Active: Move those joints and muscles and give those bones some pressure. They love it! Walking the dog, climbing the jungle gym, going for a swim, jogging and running, all give your body the activity it needs to stay healthy. Do what makes sense for your ability level and energy. If you usually lie down all day, accept help to sit for some time. If you sit most of the time, accept help to stand. If you can sit and stand, accept help and go walking. If you can walk, go running, swimming, jogging. Don’t discount the importance of flexibility and find natural times in the week to add stretching and yoga into your day. You can do it while you’re doing homework, when you are getting ready for bed, even while waiting for the bus. Staying active is best done with friends and family, but it works to do it alone too. Find something each day that gets your body moving and move on purpose.
- Protect your hands and face: These are the two main ways for germs to get into your body during your daily routine: contact and droplet. Don’t overthink it. Keep your hands away from your face. Cough and sneeze into your elbow. Wash your hands with soap and water after you touch any hole in your body. If you can’t get to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, rub it in and let it dry on your skin. You should also wash your hands before you cook, eat or drink. Clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with viruses, especially when caring for sick family members.
What can I do to protect my family?
Partnering with your kids to make the healthy choices described above is job number one, so they have a healthy baseline when they are exposed to viruses. This means their body is stronger for the fight against Winter germs. Most viruses are predictable and self-limited. One of the most concerning viruses in the Winter is influenza (flu) because it is common and unpredictable. Which means it is difficult to know who will get sick and who will get worse. The science shows that the influenza vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect children from the complications of influenza infection. It saves missed school days for kids, missed work days for their parents and caregivers, and it keeps kids out of the hospital.
There are two reasons to get a flu shot: to protect yourself and to protect your community. The flu shot is the practice before the big game. It gets your body ready to fight the flu virus if and when you are exposed. Some people feel achy or may have a fever after getting the flu vaccine. This only lasts for a day or two then you are back to your usual self. The later in the season you get the flu vaccine the more likely you are to have already been exposed to viruses that can make you sick. Often times people get the flu vaccine but are already exposed to a viral infection and will start showing signs of that viral infection. The flu shot does not give you the flu. There are some people who are unable to get the flu vaccine because of age or health condition. These people are also very susceptible to the flu virus and get can seriously ill from it. When others in the community are immunized, it decreases virus activity and protects these vulnerable members of our community.
Make sure you and your family get a flu shot. We’re taking appointments now for kids 6 months and older to get their flu vaccine! It’s the best defense against the flu. If your kids do get sick, keep them home unless for medical care. They should stay away from others as much as possible, and not return to usual contacts until they have been without a fever and without fever reducing medicine for 24 hours. You can check the Giving Kids Medicine tab for correct dosing of medication.
Call the office or book an appointment online if your child has a fever for more than 24 hours even with fever reducing medicine, body aches that don’t improve with a day of rest and hydration, and/or trouble keeping fluids down. If you have questions about your child’s condition or are unsure if this is the flu, please call the office 972-325-2005.
Have a healthy and happy holiday season!