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Kids sledding in winterCold and flu season is upon us and that means your kids are at risk. Here are four easy rules parents can follow to help reduce the chances of their children getting sick.

Feel free to share them around… the more parents who follow these rules, the less chance your kids have of being exposed to unnecessary viruses!

1. The 20-Second Rule

Water, soap—scrub for 20 seconds—rinse, and dry with a towel. That’s the winning formula.

Regular hand washing, both by you and your child, is the best way to prevent a cold and stop the spread of germs at both home and school. It is important to teach kids proper hand hygiene and make it a part of their regular routine.

Elizabeth Murray, M.D. suggests making it a routine for everyone to wash their hands when they return home.

Another tip from Emily Hsu, MD, a pediatrician in Long Beach, California, “Use a fun colored or shaped soap,” she says. “You can also find soap finger paints that make lots of bubbles.”

2. The 20-Minute Rule

"Being outdoors in daylight for as little as 20 minutes a day can make a big difference in raising your energy level and preventing the winter blues," says Norman Rosenthal, M.D., director of seasonal studies at the National Institute of Mental Health and author of Winter Blues.

Being physically active is a healthy and beneficial way to boost your child’s immune system, thus reducing their risk of getting sick. "The healthier you are, the better able you are to deal with anything that comes up, including the influenza virus," says Dr. Judy MacDonald, Calgary’s Medical Officer of Health.

Everyone knows that exercise is vital for many reasons and one of them is that it can help with cold and flu prevention. "It's probably the single best way to keep your energy up and your stress level down, which is doubly important during cold and flu season," says Ray Sahelian, M.D., a family physician. 

It is important to incorporate outdoor activities into your child’s physical regime even during the winter months, so they can continue to benefit from sun exposure and increase their intake of vitamin D.

3. The Bedtime Rule

Child waking upHaving children who aren’t well-rested not only makes their parents lives more difficult, but it’s also unhealthy and can lead to lifelong problems. "Some studies show that being sleep-deprived limits the body's natural killer-cell activity—white blood cells, which help battle disease," says Michael Bonnet, Ph.D.

How much sleep does your child need? Here are the recommend amounts per age group:

    • Infants: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
    • Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
    • Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
    • Grade-school-aged children: 9 to 12 hours
    • Teens: 8 to 10 hours

Some of the strategies you can adopt to ensure that your child is getting enough shut eye:

  • Making sleep a priority in your child’s daily schedule just like homework and sports
  • Starting the bedtime routine earlier
  • Shutting off screens
  • Keeping the same sleep routine on weekends and during vacations

4. The Balance Rule

The fourth rule for helping reduce your child’s risk of catching a cold or the flu is simply feeding them a well-balanced diet.

Kids need foods that are full of phytonutrients (phytos for short) which can be found in deep-coloured fruits and vegetables like blueberries, tomatoes, spinach, and sweet potatoes. Phytos give your immune system a big boost, so the more colour the better and frozen or canned veggies are just as good as fresh ones.

If your kids are picky eaters and don’t like fruits or vegetables, then you can opt for a multi-vitamin which provides many crucial nutrients. Vitamin D consumption, which can be supplied by eggs, milk, and yogurt is also important to maintain a healthy immune system.

Sources cited in this article:

How to Protect Your Child From This Season's Dangerous Flu

Teach Your Kids to Avoid Colds

Family Health Guide – Cold and Flu: Prevention

6 ways to help your kid avoid the flu

4 ways to help your child get enough sleep


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