Keeping kids well during the height of cold and flu season is tough—especially with preschoolers and toddlers who love to touch everything! But, even these little guys can stay healthier this year if moms and care providers work together to beat the germs…and the odds! Veteran pediatrician and father of three, Dr. Michael Ramsey, shares his best advice for moms of preschoolers:
1. Vaccinate fully and ON TIME. Not only is it important for infants and toddlers to receive vaccinations against certain illnesses, but receiving them at the proper time is a big deal, too. “Lots of parents don’t realize that the recommended vaccination schedule is set up to protect infants and toddlers from various illnesses based upon likely exposures,” says Ramsey. “By honoring the schedule and getting booster shots on time, you can give your child the maximum benefit.”
2. Take the flu vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, children younger than 5 are at a higher risk for flu-related complications and children under 2 are even more vulnerable. Simply put, every child in this age range should receive the vaccine. Dr. Ramsey says the stakes are even higher for kids who suffer from other chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.
3. Good healthcare protocol. When choosing a care provider for your child, ask questions about how they work to curb spreading of germs among the children. Inquire about how frequently workers wash their hands, how often toys are cleaned, and what general health guidelines are in place to keep children well.
4. Teach little ones good habits. The sooner you can teach your toddler to keep objects out of his mouth, to wash his hands, or to use a tissue when he has a runny nose, the better off he’ll be. Talk with the daycare provider about the skills you’re stressing at home so that you can work together to encourage them.
5. Label it. Label your child’s items like sippy cups and pacifiers to prevent unintentional mix-ups that can spread germs. Wash these items in hot soapy water or run through the dishwasher daily to sanitize. Frequently wipe down diaper bags, wipe holders, and other items which make the trip in and out of the daycare environment with disinfecting wipes.
6. Be a team player. Parents truly need to take a team approach to keeping all of the kids well in a shared childcare environment. “It’s tempting to bend the rules and take your child back to day care before he’s had 24 fever-free hours, but ask yourself what you’d want other parents to do if the tables were turned,” says Ramsey, a father of three. “By being extra-cautious for the benefit of other kids, you can encourage their parents to do the same. Everyone benefits from this approach.” Ask your care provider what the rules are and honor them to the letter.
7. Good sleep and nutrition habits. Well-rested children who eat a well-balanced diet have the strongest immune systems. Make sure your infant or toddler is getting adequate sleep and eating well to keep their natural defenses strong.