I'm a Mom and a Pediatrician: Here's How I'm Preparing My Family For Cold and Flu Season This Year
As a pediatrician and a mom to a toddler, I know how hard it is when our little ones get sick. We want them to always be healthy and enjoy their childhood, but sometimes they are hit with the coughs and sniffles—or even a fever.
Immune health is equally important to Enfamil NeuroPro, that's why I've partnered with them to share my advice on how to make sure you can help keep your kids healthy this cold and flu season. It's important to remember that we do the best we can to keep our little ones healthy, but even at our best, a cold or flu can seemingly come out of nowhere.
The past few years, we experienced a relatively mild flu season thanks to social distancing and masking. We may see an uptick in flu cases for the next cold and flu season due to relaxed measures, but time will tell.
How can you keep your child healthy and ready for cold and flu season no matter what it might look like? Here's what I tell my patients' parents.
Encourage the Foundations of Hygiene
The best thing we can do in terms of prevention is to go back to the basics we have been reminded of during the pandemic. Teaching your children to wash their hands at the most important moments:
- After playing
- Before eating
- After using the bathroom
- Whenever their hands are visibly dirty
This can help reduce the spread of illness and prevent your child from getting sick. Tell them to cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough with their elbow and/or tissue to help reduce the spread of any viruses. Also, teach your kids to avoid touching their faces; they can get infected by germs that come in contact with their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Focus on the Basics of Immune Health
Many parents ask about immune boosters, but the best immune boosters don't cost any money. The best things we can do for our immune systems are to prioritize good sleep, eat a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables, try to reduce stress (that's more for you fellow parents!), and get regular exercise. Supplements are not proven to be beneficial or truly "boost" our immune systems. Remember, that our immune system is unique to us and is largely created by our genetics, our environment, and the foods and germs we are exposed to. Also make sure to get outside whenever you are able to—vitamin D from the sun is good for us and in the winter we can often get less of it. Exercise and sunshine can help us feel good and keep our bodies healthier.
The most effective way to prevent serious illness is through vaccination. Despite the misinformation you might have seen online, vaccination doesn't take away our body's ability to fight other illnesses and have a robust immune response—it enhances it. Vaccinating your child against all recommended childhood illnesses including the flu can help keep them safe in the winter months when everyone is indoors in many places.
Stock Up on Supplies
When your kiddo is sick, the last thing you want to do is go to the pharmacy at 2 a.m. when you're already sleep-deprived. Stock up on the essentials: tissues, age-appropriate cough and cold medicine (these aren't recommended for young children), honey for cough and cold for kids over 1 year of age, Gatorade or Pedialyte for dehydration, household cleaners and disinfectants, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, thermometer, and acetaminophen and/or Tylenol.
Stay Home if Sick
I know this struggle firsthand: It's hard when our kids are sick because well, they're sick, and also who will watch them when my husband and I are working? Keeping your child home when they're sick is not just for the health of their peers, it's for them to recover as well. Sometimes, when we send our children back to school too early, they are more likely to pick up another virus or illness circulating because their immune systems are busy fighting the original illness. Also, it doesn't feel too good to sit in class or storytime when you're feeling crummy. My rule of thumb is to keep your child home until they're fever free for 24 hours and until they are in almost normal spirits where they feel up to going.
In terms of social gatherings, I get it. We hate canceling plans. But if you or your child are sick, it's best to stay home from any parties or family gatherings. If you must go to an event for some reason, the best thing is to wear a mask. Doing this will reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses that run rampant in the winter months.
I'm wishing you a healthy cold and flu season ahead with more laughs and giggles and less coughs and sniffles!
Dr. Mona Amin—aka @pedsdoctalk on Instagram—is a mom, board-certified pediatrician, and founder of "The New Mom's Survival Guide" educating new parents on how to navigate baby's first year. She has also been acting as Enfamil NeuroPro's Infant Development Expert, sharing advice and insight on how to support baby's early growth and help promote cognitive development. Dr. Amin is a trusted parenting expert with a dedicated following—her mission is to share balanced, well-researched parenting advice to lessen those big worries and help moms find more joy in motherhood!