Parents often ask me how I stay healthy when I am exposed to illness. As I sit here with a cup of tea and a box of Kleenex, I can tell you that sometimes I don’t. I may occasionally get a cold.
Children can get 8 to 12 viral illnesses each year. These viral illnesses are worse in the winter when children are inside more. Let’s count down 10 ways to keep your child healthy.
10) Teach your child not to share drinks or utensils with family or friends. Avoid kissing your child directly on the mouth.
9) Keep your children active. Kids need one hour of physical activity daily. Many children are not getting this at school. Limit screen time (computer, phones, and TV) to fewer than two hours daily. Include physical activity in your family time. Take a walk together after dinner.
8) Be sure your child is getting 9-10 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is restorative and helps build a strong immune system. Be sure that the bedroom is technology free, as blue light from screens can interfere with good sleep habits. Reading before bedtime is a healthy habit.
7) Be sure to provide a healthy diet for your child, including five or more fruits and vegetables daily (a fruit and vegetable at each meal). If you are concerned that your child’s diet may be lacking in nutrition: talk to your pediatric healthcare provider about vitamin supplements. Kids should be drinking milk and water. Avoid sweetened drinks. Encourage a healthy breakfast with a lean protein (a boiled egg is a good option).
6) Keep your child home if she is sick. We can decrease the spread of disease by isolating it. Teach your child to cough and sneeze into her elbow, like Dracula.
5) Be sure your child’s immunizations are up to date to prevent your child from contracting a potentially deadly disease. Get your child the flu shot. It is safe and effective and can’t give you the flu, despite what you heard from your neighbor. A yearly physical examination (well check) is helpful to keep your child’s health on track. Children should see a dentist twice a year.
4) Add a daily child’s probiotic. Probiotics have “good” bacteria which help to protect gut health. A healthy intestine is thought to help with a strong immune system. Yogurt contains these good bacteria, or you can give a child’s probiotic in a gummy, sprinkle packet, or a capsule.
3) Avoid crowds. Many illnesses are spread through the air. Malls, restaurants, and holiday gatherings share space and therefore share germs. Online shopping anyone?
2) Avoid sick people. This is easier said than done, however. If you know someone is ill, then reschedule the play date or sleep-over.
1) The very best way to avoid catching an illness is handwashing. Wash your child’s hands frequently, especially before meals and after using the bathroom. Children should be taught to sing the happy birthday song twice while washing. Also tell your child to avoid touching his face or rubbing his eyes.
Keep your kids healthy this winter!
Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm is a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Norfolk and an assistant professor at ODU. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: Second Edition, is available on Amazon. Read more at RaisingTodaysChild.com. Follow her at www.facebook.com/RaisingTodaysChild and www.twitter.com/Rzn2dayschild.