The school year is back in full swing. Unfortunately, just as you’re settling into your new routine, the back-to-school crud is likely to rear its ugly head especially as temperatures slowly begin to cool and flu season approaches.
On average, elementary school children get eight to 12 colds or cases of the flu each school year. Taking care of a sick child is daunting enough, but what if you also have a newborn or infant at home?
Newborn babies are especially susceptible to infection since their immune systems aren’t as developed as older kids. Here are some tips to help prevent school-age siblings from spreading germs during your infant’s first year of life:
- Immunizations: Following the American Academy of Pediatrics vaccination schedule is the first line of defense for protecting against childhood illness. This won’t prevent the common cold, but it will help against more serious disease like pertussis (whooping cough) or measles. The AAP also recommends an annual flu shot for all children from age 6 months to 18 years.
- Handwashing: Frequent handwashing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of germs. Teach children to sing ‘happy birthday’ to him or herself twice to make sure they wash for at least 20 seconds. Stress the importance of using soap, not just plain water, and to clean between their fingers and around their fingernails. Hands should be dried with a clean paper towel or hot air dryer.
- Change clothes: Schools are a hotbed for germs, and dirt and bacteria can adhere to clothing. Have school-age children change clothes as soon as they get home.
- Establish contact rules: There are few things sweeter than a doting sibling who wants to help take care of or love on their baby brother or sister. To hinder the spread of germs, limit kissing to the top of the head or baby’s feet.
- No sharing: You’ve spent all this time teaching your child the importance of sharing, but now you have to explain the importance of not sharing. Keep frequently-played-with toys out of baby’s reach and clean them at the end of the day with a sanitizing wipe or in the dishwasher. Also make sure the older sibling doesn’t handle things like the baby’s bottle, pacifier or teether.
- How to cough and sneeze: Teach your child to cough or sneeze into his or her elbow. Keep tissues within reach to prevent them using their hand or clothes to wipe or blow their nose. Make sure they throw used tissues away immediately.
- Breastfeeding: If you are breastfeeding, continue to do so even when you or someone else in the household is sick. You should continue to nurse through illnesses such as a cold, sore throat, flu, stomach bug, or fever. Chances are your baby was already exposed before you showed systems and mother’s milk will provide antibodies specifically tailored to help your baby fight off the illness. There are only a few serious illnesses that might require a mom to stop breastfeeding for a period of time or permanently. If you’re unsure, consult your physician.
Unfortunately, you can’t always prevent the spread of germs. Children with viral infections can be infectious before they show symptoms, as well as after their symptoms clear up. But, here are some things you can do to help prepare an older sibling’s ability to fight off infection and reduce the length of time they are sick:
- Sleep: According to the CDC, school-age children should get 10-11 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation hinders the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.
- Diet: A balanced, nutritious diet will help your child have the energy to get through the school day and increase their immunity defense against bacteria and viruses.
- Exercise: Regular activity is a critical part of staying healthy, even in winter months. At a minimum, children should have a daily dose of 40 minutes of activity.
- Proper clothing: Teach your children to keep their jackets zipped and hats on their heads when it’s cold.
- Daily vitamins: Taking the appropriate dose of children’s vitamins gives your child the added boost he or she needs to fight off airborne or direct-contact viruses. There are a lot of options on the shelf. Consult your child’s pediatrician for a recommendation.
Contact Raleigh OB/GYN Centre
If you’re currently pregnant or recently gave birth, contact us today for more tips on keeping you and your family healthy throughout the school year.