Flu and cold season is upon us and mommies everywhere are scrambling to keep their little ones from getting sick. Short of keeping children in a sanitized bubble, here are some easy steps that I take to protect my two girls.
Wash hands frequently:
I regularly make my toddlers wash their hands. Young children are constantly sticking their hands in their mouths, but most busy parents only make them wash their hands before meal times and after using the potty. Washing those little hands regularly (after playing outside or playing with other children’s toys) with warm water and mild soap can help protect them from germs. There are times when I am not able to wash their hands, so I opt to use baby wipes or hand sanitizer. I have to stress those are not substitutes for good old soap and water. I also keep extra baby wipes in my purse and my car.
My five year old has extremely dry hands. This becomes more evident in the winter months. To combat dry, red, itchy hands, I apply vaseline (petroleum jelly) or coconut oil to her hands after every wash. What started out as task, has now become the norm. My three year old has picked up the habit, although she can’t be trusted with a whole jar of coconut oil or vaseline (a hilarious, yet painful experience that is suitable for a blog topic for another day).
Wipe down toys, play areas and counters
Sometimes, I work as a substitute at the child care center at my gym. Being around 20 plus kids at a time has brought to my attention how fast germs can spread. However, this season I have witnessed first hand how attention to detail can reduce the spread of sickness. At the end of every 45 minute session we lock down the playroom, wipe down ALL the toys and furniture with a disinfecting cloth. When the room is empty and will be unoccupied for an extended period of time, the last worker sprays the area with a disinfecting spray. This works whether you have multiple children or one child. Wiping down counters and cleaning toys regularly is extremely important.
Reschedule playdates when a child is sick
My mommy friends always warn other parents when their child has a cold or a fever. I make it a practice to reschedule playdates when my child might potentially infect an otherwise healthy child. I was once accused of using my child’s cold as a means of flaking out on activities. It equally irritated me when the same mom showed up to a playdate with a child who was clearly sick (green snot, lethargic and extremely fussy). Needless to say, the child did not have fun and the children at the gathering got sick afterwards. Perhaps at that point it was more important for her to have some form of adult interaction or she simply did not notice that her child was sick. I can’t speak to her circumstance and I strive to be more understanding. Either way, I always err on the side of caution. If my littles do not feel well, chances are they won’t enjoy the playdate. If I feel guilty about missing a play date, I send a sweet note of regret.
Avoid public water fountains:
My three year old is drawn to water fountains. She can spot a water fountain in any public facility. The problem with little ones drinking from a water fountain is, they usually put their mouth on the spout. Some grownups put their mouth on the spout and other kids do it as well. There is no telling how often water fountains get cleaned and the intensity of the cleaning process. In my Sophomore year of college, our dorm sewer system backed up and black, smelly sludge bubbled up through the water fountain. Any love that I had for water fountains disappeared that day. I try to pack a water bottle for both girls when I know that we will be out of the house for an extended period of time. I also ensure the bottles get a thorough cleaning on a regular basis. I use pipe cleaner to reach the narrow spouts or straws. There are a few times that I have forgotten their bottles and the girls have had a sip from a public water fountain but it’s not a common practice in our household. The girls understand the importance of taking their water bottles with them when we leave the house.
Wild Card: Flu shots
This issue is hotly debated, that’s why I call it a wild card. It’s not compulsory that everyone get a flu shot. I know some parents who do not take their children to get flu shots, and their children do not get sick. I am not suggesting that everyone should get a flu shot. Getting flu shots has worked for my family. I usually take the girls to their pediatrician’s office where they administer the shots. My husband and I also get the shots. We have been lucky that every season that we have received a flu shot, we have not been sick. When we don’t get the shots, we always get sick. It’s something that we plan to keep doing. For those who are looking for a preventative, talk to your physician about flu shots.
Parents don’t have to be hyper vigilant, but consistency is key. I was raised on the saying that “a little dirt has never killed anybody” and I agree. It’s a delicate balance between making sure that my children feel free to play and be kids, while learning the importance of implementing techniques to keep them from getting sick during the flu and cold season.