Winter has finally arrived and, unfortunately, so has cold and flu season. While winter should be a time for sipping hot cocoa and building snowmen, it’s often overtaken by germs, infections, and illnesses.
Since children are especially prone to illness, you’ll need to take extra steps to keep your kids healthy this winter. We’ve compiled a list of eight tips that can boost your kids’ immune system this winter—use them to make this season a little more merry and bright!
- Provide Kids With More Immune-Boosting Food and Drinks
The stronger your child’s immune system is going into cold and flu season, the better. One of the best ways to boost the immune system is with vitamin- and nutrient-rich foods and drinks.
Try to incorporate the following foods into your child’s diet this winter:
- Beef—it contains zinc, which is vital in the production of the white blood cells your child uses to destroy bacteria.
- Fruits that contain vitamin C—oranges, pomegranates, strawberries, and raspberries all contain a good amount of this vital vitamin.
- Garlic—it contains allicin, a compound that fights bacteria and infection.
- Yogurt that contains probiotics—probiotics keep the digestive system free from disease-causing germs.
Much like your home requires extra energy to stay warm during the winter, your child’s body will require extra nutrients to fight viruses and infections when they do strike.
- Limit Children’s Sugar Intake
From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, the winter months are jam-packed with holidays that kids love. Unfortunately, winter festivities often include sugary snacks that can wreak havoc on a child’s body.
Increased sugar consumption not only depresses the immune system, it also causes systemic inflammation. As a result, kids who eat lots of sugar become likely candidates for the cold, flu, and more. Try to limit children’s sugar intake to one small treat per day to bolster their immune system.
- Keep Kids Hydrated
A cold glass of water is probably the last thing kids want during the winter, but it’s what their bodies need in order to fight infection and illness. Water not only carries nutrients to cells, it also sweeps toxins out of the body. Thus, dehydration increases a child’s risk of getting sick.
Experts recommend children drink half their weight in ounces every day. So, if your child weighs 50 pounds, try to get them to drink 25 ounces of water each day.
- Make Sure Children Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential to a healthy immune system—it allows the body to heal and repair itself. If you’re not sure how much sleep your kids need, here is a quick review:
- Babies younger than 1 year require 12-18 hours per night.
- Toddlers ages 1-3 need 12-14 hours each night.
- Preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 require 11-13 hours per night.
- Kids ages 5-10 need between 10 and 11 hours each night.
With an increased amount of germs floating around, your children’s bodies will need a little extra time during the winter to fully recuperate.
- Encourage Kids to Relax
Between holiday parties, traveling to visit friends and family members, and shopping for holiday gifts, winter is a busy time. While adults can handle the increased stress, children’s immune systems tend to weaken amid all the hustle and bustle.
On top of making sure your kids get enough sleep each night, encourage them to take time to relax each day. Whether they choose to watch an episode of their favorite show on TV, build a snowman, color, or play with toys, the slower pace will give their immune system time to rest and recuperate.
- Change Your Children’s Toothbrushes
Believe it or not, one of the dirtiest surfaces in your house is your child’s toothbrush. Germs often hide in the bristles, leading to infections and illnesses. Buy your child a new toothbrush at the beginning of winter, and replace it right away if your child does get sick.
- Teach Kids to Wash Their Hands
Although handwashing is a simple principle, it’s sometimes overlooked by parents of young children. Hands serve as germs’ gateway to children’s bodies, so the cleaner they are, the less likely your child is to develop a winter illness or infection.
Teach your kids to wash their hands:
- Before and after each meal
- After touching dirt, garbage, animals, or another person
- After sneezing, coughing, blowing their nose
Ensure that your kids always wash their hands with both soap and water and for at least 30 seconds.
- Know When to Take Children to the Doctor
Most winter illnesses clear up on their own after only a few days, but some can turn into more serious medical issues. Contact your doctor right away if your child exhibits any of the following symptoms:
- Fever of 103℉ or higher
- Very sore throat combined with a fever
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Wheezing and/or trouble breathing (this could be a sign of pneumonia)
Don’t let your kids’ immune systems become a playground for germs this winter—use these tips to keep them healthy, happy, and strong. Ask your daycare provider for any additional tips they have for your specific area.