Top tips for keeping the whole family healthy during the cold and flu season with our winter health survival guide.
Even though there’s no cure for the cold or flu – and your family will probably catch a few in a year – you can help your kid reduce their risk of getting sick. Methods for preventing colds and flu are keeping clean, boosting your kid’s immune system, and getting a vaccine for the seasonal flu.
How do colds and flus compare?
Because flu symptoms are quite similar to cold symptoms, it’s often hard to tell the difference. But there is one clue about flu that can help you know.
When you have the flu, you feel flu symptoms sooner than you would cold symptoms, and they come on with much greater intensity.
Kids and colds
Statistics show that preschool-aged children have around nine colds per year, young children can have 12 colds per year, and adolescents and adults have about seven colds per year.
Cold season runs from September until March or April, so children usually catch most cold viruses during these months.
Children’s cold symptoms
- Watery nasal mucus
- Fever (sometimes)
- Sore throat
Because of the postnasal drip, your child may have a sore throat and cough, symptoms that are common in children’s colds. The cold virus can affect your child’s sinuses, throat, bronchial tubes, and ears. With a cold, children may also have diarrhoea and vomiting.
How can I prevent my children from catching colds?
1. Wash those hands.
The best way to prevent children from catching colds is to teach them proper hand washing. The common cold is spread mostly by hand-to-hand contact.
For example, a child with a cold blows or touches his or her nose and then touches your child, who then becomes infected with the cold virus.
The common cold is also spread by infected objects that are good cold carriers, including door handles, stair railings, books, pens, and a computer keyboard and mouse. The common cold virus can live on objects for several hours, allowing time for your child to touch the object and then rub his or her eyes or nose.
Cold germs can live on surfaces for hours. Consider disinfecting areas like tabletops, doorknobs, remote controls, and toys. Use a disinfecting spray or wipe. Or make your own by mixing 1/4 cup bleach with 1 gallon of warm water.
But – don’t make yourself crazy wiping down everything your sick preschooler touches — there’s no way to keep a household sterile.
3. Cover your nose and mouth
Most of us were raised to cover our mouths and noses with our hands when we sneezed or coughed. Instead, use the crook of your elbow — or a tissue. That way, the cold germs won’t get onto your hands and spread.
4. Eat well
There is some evidence that a healthy diet might help keep your immune system strong – and potentially more capable of fighting off a cold virus.
Top 3 immunity super foods
The following food groups will help you to build a strong immune system. For best results, incorporate a variety of nutrient-rich foods into a healthy, balanced diet.
1. Fruits and vegetables
Many of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants can be purchased in the produce section of your local grocery store. The antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin A and natural chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their colour provide potent virus and harmful bacteria-fighting benefits.
To meet your recommended five to nine fruit and/or vegetable servings daily it is recommended that you fill two-thirds of your meal plate with plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables.
Varieties particularly rich in vitamins C, A and other disease-fighting nutrients include citrus fruit, papaya, cantaloupe, mangos, berries, leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts and winter squash.
2. Lean meat and seafood
Lean meat and seafood provide significant amounts of protein and nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins and zinc.
The mineral zinc plays an important role in immune system function, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Severe zinc deficiency represses your immune system’s capabilities, while a mild deficiency can hinder the ability of your white blood cells to fend off toxins.
Low zinc intake has also been linked with increased risk for infections, such as pneumonia, in people with weak immune systems.
Valuable sources of zinc include oysters, beef shanks, crab, pork shoulder, chicken and lobster. Fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, halibut and flounder provide additional benefits of omega-3 fatty acids – healthy fats known to reduce inflammation triggered by infection, injury or disease.
3. Whole grains
Whole grains are grains that, unlike refined grains, have maintained their nutrient, protein and fibre content during food processing.
Whole grains are rich sources of the mineral selenium, which boosts your immune system and helps prevent damage caused by cancerous cells. Increasing your whole-grain intake may also reduce your risk for high cholesterol, hypertension and heart disease.
To reap ample benefits from whole grains, replace refined carbohydrate sources, such as enriched breads, pasta, cereals and baked goods — with whole-grain foods. Choose old-fashioned porridge over sugary cereal, for example, and 100% whole-grain bread over white bread. Additional healthy whole-grain food options include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, air-popped popcorn, pearled barley and whole-grain cold cereals.
Does getting cold or wet cause colds?
The only thing that can cause a cold or flu is a cold or flu virus. Getting cold or wet won’t give you a cold. However, if you are already carrying the virus in your nose, it might allow symptoms to develop.
“When my children have coughs, I put Vicks onto the soles of their feet with socks on – it helps ease the cough. When my kids get the snuffles I use Olbas Oil in a humidifier. Lots of cuddles help too!”
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