October 23, 2019

Stay healthy during cold and flu season

When the seasons start to change, pediatricians sense more than just winter in the air. Common colds, pink eyes, ear infections, coughs and the flu are guaranteed to arrive, just like the snow.

While most common illnesses will be over relatively quickly, it can be difficult to watch your child experience the symptoms once, let alone several times, during the season. Fortunately, there are several steps we can take to prevent illnesses.

Wash those hands

  • Use warm water when you wash your hands. Warm water is better at killing germs, and reduces the risk of burning yourself with water that is too hot.

  • Use whatever soap you like (antibacterial soap isn't necessary; any soap will do.)

  • Work up a generous lather on both sides of your hands, your wrists, and between your fingers. Don't forget to wash around your nails — germs' favorite finger hideaway. Train your kids and yourself to sing the birthday song or count to 20 as you wash your hands.

  • Rinse with warm water and dry well with a clean towel.

  • Wash your hands often. Especially before eating or touching food in any way, after using the bathroom, blowing your nose or coughing, touching animals, playing or participating in sports or visiting a sick friend.

  • Hand sanitizer is a wonderful innovation (though it should be used in addition to, not instead of, hand washing). Use it frequently but carefully with your children.

Keep your hands to yourself

Try not to touch your face. Eyes, mouths and noses serve as wonderful habitats for cold and flu bugs. Disinfect door handles, toys and other surfaces. My children may have labeled me as the super-safety mom, but they have listened.

Cover that cough

It really is adorable to see all these children covering their mouths with their elbows (the vampire cough). Now, if we could only teach adults to cover their mouths with coughing and sneezing and throw away used tissues.

Get immunized

For pediatricians, Ben Franklin's old adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cur" couldn't be more true. Hence, the following tidbit on the Influenza vaccine: every member of your family should get the flu shot.

Influenza is primarily a respiratory illness which can last at least a week. Parents ask me if the vaccine is safe.  It is. The vaccine's few side effects range from soreness at the injection site to fever. But, the effects of the Influenza illness can go well beyond just a few days of discomfort. Coughing, sore throats, high fevers, rigors (full body shakes), body sweats, clawing headaches and body aches that possess your being. And that is just you — the adult. Imagine then the experience of an infant or young child with Influenza. I cannot. Every year I sympathize so much with my patients who get sick with it.

Finally, good nutrition and rest, along with exercise and good mental health (and stress management) can only help you and your family during sick season. Sick season will come and it will go and we will all be happier with its exit.

Care Anywhere

If your child does get sick, you can see urgent care providers for for cold symptoms and other problems through UW Health's Care Anywhere app. You don't have to leave home and you can see a provider when it's convenient for you and your child.