10 Tips to Help Prevent Winter Colds and Flu

The flu season is always a concern, and this year it poses an even greater danger. With a major focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember that cold and flu season has officially begun too. Keeping your family healthy is more important than ever. 

Both influenza and COVID-19 are contagious, and as more children and teens gather indoors, the potential for getting one — or both — of these illnesses increases. To complicate matters, some of the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 overlap. 

As the nation transitions through flu season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our experts at Laurel Pediatric and Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland, recommend the following tips to keep your family healthy. 

1. Keeping hands clean

While cold and flu germs can float through the air on the invisible droplets of an uncovered sneeze or cough, touching an infected surface is the most common way to pick up the influenza virus. 

This makes good handwashing hygiene vital for school-aged children who are used to touching surfaces around them without giving it a second thought. 

Encourage your child to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water frequently throughout the day, especially before eating and when arriving home from outdoors.

2. Avoiding touching the face

Your child may not realize it, but it’s likely that they touch their face an average of 16 times per hour. Rubbing their eyes, scratching their nose, or chewing on their fingernails is a route for influenza to travel into the body. It’s best to avoid touching their face, and encourage them to use hand sanitizer throughout the day.

3. Getting the flu shot

Even if your children are home-schooling, it’s crucial that your entire family get a flu shot this season. A flu shot is the best way to protect them from the virus. 

Receiving your flu shot by November helps ensure you’re protected throughout the season, but it’s never too late to get vaccinated — Dr. Ugonma Harriet Okparaocha keeps the current flu vaccine in stock and available all season long.  

4. Keeping surfaces clean

Everyone in your family picks up germs throughout the day, and some of those germs find their way into your house. Even if no one is sick, it’s important to keep surfaces clean. Wiping down surfaces and using disinfecting wipes helps to reduce germs so that your family stays healthy.

5. Not skimping on sleep

Sleep is crucial for keeping the immune system healthy and strong. Skimping on sleep can make the body more susceptible to germs. 

Many families are adjusting to working from home, social distancing and disruptions to their regular schedule. It’s helpful to stick to a daily routine and get the family in bed at the same time each day. While most adults need seven or eight hours of sleep each night, kids need 10 to 14 hours, depending on their age. 

6. Making nutrition a priority

Making sure your family eats wholesome, well-balanced meals not only promotes proper growth and development, it strengthens their immune system. All of the body’s cells require adequate nutrition to function optimally. 

Eating a wide variety of nutritious foods ensures that your youngsters and teens get crucial nutrients the immune system needs to stay strong. To boost intake of infection-fighting antioxidants, aim to have them fill at least half of their plates with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. 

7. Get and stay physical

Physical activity bolsters the immune system; people who lead an active lifestyle are less prone to colds and flu. Exercise helps to regulate the immune system by stimulating white blood cells that fight infection. 

Physical activity also helps to flush bacteria from the lungs, which may help reduce the risk of catching a cold. 

8. Keep stress at bay

The unprecedented change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic means that stress levels are at an all-time high. One of the many ways stress is bad for a child or teen’s health is how it can sabotage their immune system. 

It’s vital to make time for stress-busting activities such as reading a book or listening to soothing music. Stress-relieving activities should be a part of your family’s daily routine. Consider activities your family enjoys, and make it a priority to engage in relaxing activities each day. 

9. Protect yourself

Wearing a facemask when you leave home not only protects against COVID-19, it may also reduce the risk of the flu. It can be spread through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, as well as from touching contaminated surfaces. 

10. Continue to social distance

The practice of social distancing is not only beneficial for reducing the risk of COVID-19; keeping a safe distance from people who are not in your household also aids in limiting the spread of colds or the flu.

Avoid large gatherings and keep at least six feet from other people when you leave home.

The team at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center is devoted to helping all of our young patients stay healthy during the cold and flu season as well as the rest of the year. 

To schedule your child’s flu shot and for all of your pediatric care needs, call our Bel Air, Maryland, office or book your child’s visit online today.

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