Ask a roomful of parents which childhood illnesses they dread most and you’ll hear a variety of ailments: colds, stomach viruses, pinkeye…. Most common childhood illnesses spread easily among family members, making everyone miserable, keeping kids out of school and parents out of work. So how can you protect your family?
1. Wash your hands, wash your hands, and wash your hands again.
Make sure everyone in the house washes their hands frequently and thoroughly. Stomach viruses are transferred hand to mouth and things like pinkeye and colds are often hand to face, so clean hands are the best way to stop these in their tracks. While colds are often airborne, they can also be transferred by touching the face with germy hands.
Hand sanitizer is a good backup on the go, but it’s no substitute for a good sudsing with warm water. Norovirus, which causes some of the nastiest forms of stomach virus, isn’t completely removed with sanitizer and can cause an infection with as few as 10 viral particles.
Have everyone wash their hands as soon as they get home and before eating. And remember that a good washing is more than a quick rinse with a drop of hand soap. It takes, soap, scrubbing and rinsing. Soap loosens the germs, friction from rubbing the hands together for 30 seconds takes germs off the skin, and rinsing with warm water washes them away. Skip any of the three and hand washing is much less effective.
2. The best defense is a good offense.
If germs do slip through your handwashing defense – and some will – then you’ll want your immune system to be as strong as possible. Adequate sleep and a healthy diet are keys to keeping your immune system up to the challenge of fighting off the germs.
When we lose sleep, cells that promote inflammation increase, and cells such as T-cells, which fight off illness, decrease. Sleep may seem expendable in a busy day, but pulling late nights leaves us vulnerable.
Also, watch the sugar. Even a few teaspoons of sugar lowers immune system function for hours. Have a sugary snack several times a day and your defenses will always be down.
3. Hands off the face!
Any germs that linger on hands take the superhighway into the body through the mouth, eyes or nose. Teach children and teens to avoid touching their faces. Remind them to use tissues for blowing noses and to dispose of used tissues rather than leave them lying around.
No system of germ defense is perfect and some illness may slip through. But follows these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to a healthier family!