Kids and Colds

The common cold is, as the name suggests, the most frequently seen illness in the united states, and children are particularly vulnerable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that the average child gets six to eight colds each year. That means most children are sick most of the time during the winter months, missing 22 million school days.

There are a number of reasons for this. Their young immune systems aren’t yet inured to common infectious agents. Children spend a lot of time indoors and around other children, and are prone to passing diseases between each other. Though there is no cure for the common cold, there are some measures you can take to protect your children.

Hygiene is the most important part of prevention. Children should be taught the importance of washing their hands, because hand-to-hand contact is the most common way colds spread. This is particularly true in school, where children often share items. Children should know to scrub their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before drying them completely. They should wash before every meal and remember that, while sharing is good, sharing straws or eating utensils is likely to spread germs.

Another important part of cold prevention is proper dietary habits. Balanced nutrition keeps young bodies strong, and helps kids—and adults—better fight off colds. Enough sleep is also important; well-rested is well-prepared to fight the onslaught of illness.

If children do get sick, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms. Warm drinks and, for older children, gargling with (but not swallowing) salt water can help with a sore throat. Use a humidifier to open stuffed noses and fight the drying effect of many cold medicines. Sick children should sneeze and cough into their sleeves or elbows to avoid spreading germs themselves.

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