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Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Monday, February 03, 2014 by Jeannine C
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Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
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It seems like the cold and flu season gets worse every year. Last year’s flu season was so bad here in New York that the governor declared it a state health emergency, citing record-breaking numbers of epidemic proportions. Statistics aside, no one wants their children to be sick—even with just a cold. But since kids seem to trade viruses as often as they trade snacks at recess, many parents find themselves in and out of the doctor’s office with their little guys all winter long.
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Since we know you’re tired of seeing your child’s pediatrician more than you see your own reflection in the mirror, we’ve rounded up a few ideas for staving off sickness in your house this year. Stay healthy out there, folks!
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Hand-washing
Hands down (pun intended), washing your hands is the best way to combat cold and flu viruses. Kids should always wash their hands after bathroom trips, before and after meals, and when they come home from school or day care. Being a parent myself, I know how hard it can be to make sure your children’s hands are clean all day. With my older child, I find that explaining how washing hands can prevent sickness and kill germs has helped a lot. My younger child and I often sing songs together while we wash our hands in order to make it more like a game than a chore, and to keep the experience as positive as possible. These are some great songs to try with your little ones.
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Read about germs together
Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
Sometimes books can teach important lessons to children in ways that moms and dads can’t, and reading can be a valuable tool for illustrating how to prevent spreading or catching germs. Here are a few great books that will teach your kids how to stay healthy during cold and flu season, as well as all year round:

  • Germs Are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick–This book is short and to the point, which makes it perfect for the youngest of toddlers, or any child with a short attention span. Giving an innocent overview on germs, it shows kids what to do when they cough or sneeze, drop food on the floor, go to the bathroom, or want to kiss or hug a friend.
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Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
  • Germs! Germs! Germs! by Bobbi Katz–This catchy rhyming book is told from the point-of-view of the germs themselves. Although the illustrations are hilarious and its overall tone is light-hearted and comical, the anti-germ message is very clearly delivered. This is a good pick for kids in pre-k and up.

  • What to Do With Ahhh Chooo? by Jayne S. Morgan–If any book drives home the importance of covering your mouth when you sneeze, this is it. Humorously gross, but still very informative, this book will easily engage your little ones and thus ensure they won’t be sneezing into the air anytime soon.
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If all else fails, there is great episode of Yo Gabba Gabba where the Gabba gang delves deep into the world of “tiny ugly germs”. It’s full of cute jingles and colorful characters, and is sure to be a big hit with the toddlers and preschoolers in your life.
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Vitamin C
Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
It is widely believed that consuming large doses of Vitamin C will keep you from catching a cold. While some skeptics might proclaim this notion to be a myth, no one can deny the fact that increasing your overall intake of healthy fruits and veggies is a great way to strengthen your immune system.
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Kiwis, strawberries and oranges are all great sources of Vitamin C, so try swapping out the after-dinner ice cream and cookies for some healthy fruit salad for dessert. Dark, leafy greens, as well as veggies like broccoli, brussel sprouts, and bell peppers all contain even more Vitamin C than oranges do. While it’s much harder to pump the kids full of healthy veggies than it is to get them to eat their fruit, it’s not impossible. To get them eating leafy greens like kale or spinach, try tossing the leaves with olive oil, salt and pepper, then laying them out on a baking sheet and putting them in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes until crispy. Tell the kids you’ve made “green chips” and they’ll dig right in. You can also puree the veggies into a healthy and delicious pesto sauce for pasta or roll them into broccoli or spinach balls (what is it with kids and round food?). You could even try hiding the veggies in some yummy, freshly-baked brownies. Whatever works, I say. 
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Garlic
Though not rich in Vitamin C, garlic is also thought to naturally boost the immune system. A popular cold remedy, some believe that leaving a clove of raw garlic under your tongue when you’re sick will speed up recovery. I’m definitely not suggesting you go that route with your kids (or even yourself) but there is significant evidence showing the health benefits found in garlic. Make sure to get your kids used to the flavor as early as possible so that you can add it to any recipe you make for your family.
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Flu Shots
Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
The flu shot is easily available to anyone looking to vaccinate themselves against the most common strain of flu for the season. While it won’t protect your children from all strains of influenza, it can certainly decrease the odds of catching the flu. If you feel the flu shot is right for your child, it can be administered by a pediatrician or nurse if covered by your insurance. If it isn’t covered by your insurance, the shot typically costs around $30 at a pharmacy or health care center. You could also visit a clinic where free flu shots are administered, like these:
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Community Health Center of Richmond
235 Port Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10302.
Free flu shots for children under nine years old, $20 for adults. No appointment necessary.
Hours: Mon and Wed 9 am - 8 pm; Tue, Thu, Fri 9 am - 4 pm

North Central Bronx Hospital
3424 Kossuth Ave, Bronx, NY 10467.
Free Flu shots for children six months to 18 years. No appointment is necessary.
Hours: Tue 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm in room 6A; Wed 10 am - 3 pm in room 4D; Fri 10 am - 3 pm in room 4D.

Fort Greene Health Center
295 Flatbush Ave, 5th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
Free flu shots for adults and children over four-years-old. No appointment necessary.
Hours: Mon - Fri 8:30 am - 2 pm

Tremont Health Center
1826 Arthur Ave, 1st Floor, Bronx, NY 10457.
Free flu shots for adults and children over four-years-old. No appointment necessary.
Hours: Tue & Thu 8:30 am - 2 pm

Corona Health Center
34-33 Junction Blvd, 3rd Floor, Queens, NY 11372.
Free flu shots for adults and children over four-years-old. No appointment necessary.
Hours: Wed & Fri 8:30 am - 2 pm
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Probiotics
Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
Recent studies show a link between probiotics and immune system health. Probiotics are good bacteria that live in your digestive tract when ingested. Popular brands like Culturelle and Florastor sell chewable probiotic tablets or gummies for kids, as well as powder that can be mixed into food, to bolster the immune system when taken regularly. As an added bonus, probiotics also increase digestive regularity. However, since probiotics are not for everyone (like people with compromised immune system or certain illnesses), you should consult your child’s pediatrician before giving them to your child.
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Disinfect your home
It seems like such a simple method of prevention, but it’s easy to forget to sanitize areas of high contamination around your house often. Be sure to scrub doorknobs, sink handles, toilet flusher handles, refrigerator handles, remotes, video game controllers, cell phones, and any other surface that see plenty of hand traffic. If you don’t want to use harsh chemicals, try using vinegar instead; the natural disinfectant is known to kill mold, bacteria, and germs. Bed sheetspillowcases in particularshould be washed frequently, and toothbrushes should be replaced often as well. It also helps to leave shoes by the door when you come home to reduce the amount of bacteria brought in from outside.
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Get plenty of sleep
Eight Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
It’s no secret that getting enough sleep works wonders for the body, both physically and mentally. A lack of sleep can easily weaken the immune system, thus making it much more likely to get sick. Ensuring your child always gets plenty of rest is easier said than done, but there are things you can do to promote a healthy sleep schedule for your child. Here are a few tried-and-true tips:

  • Always keep a set bedtime schedule, as well as a set wake up time (even on weekends)
  • Enforce a soothing, nightly bedtime routine
  • Prohibit TV or other electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime
  • Regulate room temperature to keep your child comfortable through the night
  • Try to keep naps as early in the day as possible
  • Encourage physical activity and make sure your child gets plenty of daily exercise
  • Give your child a stuffed animal as their special sleep buddy to ward off fears and nighttime loneliness
  • Be on the lookout for possible sleep problems and talk with your child’s doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary in your child’s sleep habits
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