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How can my family avoid common illnesses?
Q: I have three children younger than 8, and they constantly have the sniffles or some type of illness that they spread among them. Often, I pick the bug up, too. What can I do to take care of my kids and ensure I stay well?
A: Latonia, caring for young children involves very close contact with all of their body fluids and their germs. Most parents find that they’ve gotten sicker in their children’s early years than they’d been before their children were born. If it’s any consolation, these illnesses help develop your own immunity and you’ll be healthier in a few years. In the meantime, here are tips for trying to prevent catching your children’s illnesses:
  • Wash your hands frequently: Hand washing is probably the most important way to reduce the spread of colds and many other illnesses. Wash your hands with soap and water after wiping your children’s noses, going to the bathroom and nappying as well as before preparing meals and feeding your children. Make sure your children also wash their hands after nappying or going to the bathroom and before eating. If you’re somewhere that you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Don’t share food or drinks: Although we encourage our children to share, we don’t want them to share germs. Make sure each child has his own food and drink. At family meals, teach your children to touch only what they’ll eat. And don’t finish up the food your children leave on their plate, since it has their germs on it.
  • Avoid kissing your children on the mouth: Common illnesses such as colds, flu and herpes cold sores can spread through germs in the mouth. It’s safest to kiss on the forehead or cheek.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow: Although you probably learned to “cover your mouth when you cough,” this sprays saliva and germs onto your hands. If you don’t wash your hands right away, you spread the germs when you touch people and objects afterward. It’s better to keep your hands clean by coughing and sneezing into your elbow. Teach your children to do this. They can learn this technique as young as age 2 or 3.
  • Get fresh air: Fresh air blows away the germs in the air. It’s healthiest to open windows for a short time every day, and take your children outdoors at least once a day except in extreme weather.
  • Eat well, drink plenty of fluids and get enough sleep: Keep yourself in good overall health to help your body’s immune defenses protect you from illnesses.
  • Get your flu vaccine every year: Flu vaccine is now recommended for all children from 6 months to 5 years, pregnant women, adults who care for young children and anyone with chronic illnesses that make them susceptible to the flu. It can also be helpful for other children and adults. Talk with your doctor about the flu vaccine for you and your children.