Monday, March 28, 2011

Keep Your Kids 4 Simple Tips


When it comes to preventing colds and flu, few weapons are more effective than old-fashioned soap and water.

"The most important thing is washing your hands," says Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, a New York-based pediatrician and author of Good Kids, Bad Habits. "Most germs or viruses are communicated through the hands, especially in winter. You need to teach your children to wash not just after using the bathroom but also before eating and when they get home from school."

Studies show the type of soap kids use -- anti-bacterial or regular -- is less important than the amount of time they spend at the sink. “It’s the mechanical motion that's really important," Trachtenberg explains. "It's not enough to just blob soap on your hands and then rinse it off." She suggests singing a song with your kids while they wash: "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or "The Alphabet Song" are good choices, because they take as long to sing as kids need to scrub.

If you can't get to a sink, hand sanitizers are OK as long as kids don't ingest them or lick their hands after using them, advises Dr. Jay Berkelhamer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

An Ounce of Prevention

They might not thank you later, but drag your children in for their annual physicals and vaccinations, anyway.

"It's very important to go for preventative visits and checkups to make sure your kids are up to date with all of their shots," says Dr. Trachtenberg. Even diseases we thought were history can make a resurgence if kids don't get the vaccines they need. For example, "There's been a lot of whooping cough going around again, so we're reboostering adolescents," she says.

While you're at the doctor's office, don't forget to ask about flu shots: Catching the flu doesn't really help build your child's immune system, so the vaccine will spare you and your kids some distress over the winter months.

A Pound of Cure?

When the sniffles strike, your kids need plenty of rest, lots of fluids and even more patience than usual from the grownups who love them.

Antibiotics aren't effective against the viruses that cause colds and flus, so "there isn't a whole lot you can do," says Dr. Berkelhamer, "unless it's a bacterial infection that your doctor can diagnose." For normal coughs, colds, runny noses or fevers, "medications will not change the course of the illness," he adds.

Dr. Berkelhamer doesn't recommend over-the-counter cold medications for youngsters: "I don't think they do very much, and some of them make kids very irritable."

To prevent a relapse, keep kids home from school or daycare until they're ready. "One of the reasons children get sick is that other parents send their children to school when they haven't been adequately treated," says Dr. Trachtenberg. "Parents wonder why their children keep getting sick; but it's just that kids in their class keep going back too soon, and they spread the illness back around."

Your children's temperature should be normal, and they should have minimal or no secretions from the nose or mouth before they return to school. If the illness required antibiotics, they should not return to school until they've been on the antibiotics for at least 24 hours.

Set the Standard

Maintaining healthy habits should be a lifetime goal for the entire family. If your children see you taking care of yourself by exercising, eating well, getting enough rest and practicing proper hygiene, they'll follow your lead.

At the same time, try not to make your children afraid of getting sick -- it happens to all of us. The good news is, we get fewer viruses as we age. So when you're trying to soothe your sniffly child through a sleepless night, remember: That cold is helping him develop a healthy immune system.

Above all, sick kids are going to be cranky, but don't underestimate the value of a hug and a kind word. "Touch is so healing in its own right," says Dr. Schmitt. "You can also give verbal reassurance. Tell kids: 'You're sick today but you're going to get better soon, I'm here to take care of you.'"


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