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Keep Your Child Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Common-sense ways to ward off germs


Updated October 07, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

While there are four seasons weather- and calendar-wise, there is another time of year that is less about dressing differently, and more about staying healthy: cold and flu season. Running from around mid-October until about March (with a peak in January and February), cold and flu season brings to mind runny noses, coughs, and fevers. And while you can't necessarily stop your little one from getting sick, there are things you can do to try to stave off germs and bugs and keep your child healthy during the long winter. 

Review Hand-Washing Techniques

Steven Puetzer
Steven Puetzer

Washing your hands, which is one of the most effective ways to get rid of germs, is one of those basic human tasks that we should just all automatically know how to do, right? No. While it is simple, it's important, and one for which everyone should know the proper technique. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wash your hands using soap and clean-running water for about 20 seconds. Tell your preschooler to sing the alphabet twice while she washes so you know she's doing it long enough. And while parents may choose to hum an alternate tune, the same hand-washing vigilance applies to you, too.

Your preschooler should also know when to wash her hands. After using the toilet is an obvious time, but your little one should also understand that her hands need to be cleaned after a host of other situations, including (but not limited to):

  • Before meals and snacks
  • After playing outside
  • After touching an animal
  • Before meeting and touching a baby
  • After sneezing or wiping your nose
  • Before preparing food


Make Sure Vaccinations Are Up-To-Date

While regularly-scheduled vaccinations won't prevent a common cold, they will make sure your child doesn't have to fight off other types of diseases. A flu shot can also help prevent your child from getting the flu. Talk to your child's pediatrician about what will work best for your family. 

No Nose Picking!

Nose picking in preschoolers is a common habit, but not one you have to accept.
Thomas Northcut

Even if your child washes his hands every time you tell him to, germs and bacteria can still reside there. And every time your child sticks his finger into his nose (or in his mouth), those little buggies transfer themselves into those parts of his body. 

If your child has to sneeze, make sure he knows to use a tissue or to do it into his elbow. This won't necessarily prevent him from getting a cold, but it will certainly help stop spread anything your child might have. 

Try to Avoid Exposure to Those Who Are Sick

Sick child
Sharon Dominick
By the time someone with a cold or a virus is outwardly showing symptoms, they've already been contagious for some time. Still, you'll want to limit your child's exposure to someone who is coughing and sneezing outwardly. This also means talking to your child's school or day care about their sick child policies. If you repeatedly notice sick children at places where your child goes on a regular basis, be sure to talk to the teacher or administrator about it. 

Discourage Sharing

Sure, most of the time, sharing is a behavior you want your little one to engage in. But when it comes to things like friends and cups and utensils, "mine" is the best policy. Viruses and bacteria can easily be transmitted through saliva, so making sure your little one avoids things that have been in someone else's mouth is the way to go. That means absolutely no sharing of food and drinks from a single dish, bowl, cup or other container.

Make Sure Your Little One is in Top Shape

While you likely do this every day, during the throws of cold and flu season, it's a good idea to make sure your preschooler is properly hydrated, is eating enough healthy foods, and is getting enough sleep. 

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