The winter months tend to be the busiest time of year for pediatricians, as we see a huge peak in influenza (the flu) and other common viruses. As we head deeper into flu season, the waiting rooms become more crowded and the wait times get longer.
The persistent fever and dreadful symptoms leave parents feeling frustrated and helpless. Although there is no way to completely protect your child from getting the flu, there are things you can do to significantly decrease the chances.
Dr. Katie Friedman, board certified pediatrician and co-founder of foreverfreckled.com is giving us her best tips to help your child avoid getting the flu.
A Good Night's Sleep
Sleep is extremely important to maintaining good health and strong immunity. When our children are run down and tired, they become more vulnerable to becoming sick.
School aged children need up to 11 hours of sleep per day. Preschoolers need a total of 13 hours of sleep per day. As we start the new year, it is time to focus on healthy sleep hygiene.
Create a bedtime schedule and stick to it. If your child is not going to bed at a desired time, start by slowly having your child go to bed earlier. We recommend starting bedtime preparation 15 minutes earlier each week until you achieve the time that you desire.
Noshing on a Healthy Diet
A well-balanced diet is the key to a healthy year. Certain fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients such as vitamin C and carotenoids, which can help boost your child's immune system.
Strawberries, blueberries, oranges, green beans, and carrots contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that can help to increase your child's production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferons, which will help them fight off illness.
Children are more motivated to try new things when they are involved in the process. Let them go to the store with you and pick out their own snacks for the new year. Allowing them to become involved in their own diet will motivate them to try new things.
Teach them Hand Washing
The research has shown that the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness is to wash our hands. Good hand washing habits start at home.
Make sure your kids wash their hands often and with soap. They need to understand the importance of clean hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after arriving home from school. If the school allows it, have your child carry disposable wipes in their backpack for quick cleanups.
It is equally important to teach your child that if they are sick, they must cover their mouth before sneezing or coughing. Good hygiene is the key to decreasing the spread of germs in the classroom.
The Healing Power of Elderberry
A lot of parents struggle with illnesses when their child is in school or daycare. Parents are always asking me if there is any supplement they can give their child to help prevent illness.
Although there is no magic medicine to help prevent your child from becoming sick, elderberry has been used since the ancient times to help promote immunity and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.
Elderberry can be used like a daily vitamin. There are many ways to incorporate this natural supplement into your child's diet. I love the idea of making an elderberry syrup for pancakes and waffles.
Please remember there are contradictions and limitations to elderberry syrup so it is imperative that you discuss with your doctor whether it is appropriate for your child to start taking this supplement. Children under the age of 1 should not take elderberry.
Please make sure your doctor goes over the appropriate dosing with you.
Consider the Flu Shot
The flu shot protects your child against the four most common strains of the influenza virus. The vaccine significantly lowers your chance of getting the virus.
If your child has had a flu shot, but gets sick with the flu, the vaccine will decrease the length and strength of the symptoms.