Your Health Tamar Raucher | one year ago

Keeping Your Kids Germ Free

Kids and germs – they stick together like the best of friends, even though we don’t want them to. What can you do to keep those pesky bugs away from your child?

“It’s not possible to keep kids completely germ free unless they’re in a bubble,” says Carolinas HealthCare System pediatrician Carla Holder, MD. “But there’s a lot we can do to minimize the chances of them getting sick.” Dr. Holder and fellow Carolinas HealthCare System pediatrician Jermeliah Martin, MD, share their top tips.

Up Your Hand-Hygiene Game

This is a biggie, and it can’t be stressed enough. Practicing good hand hygiene is the single most important step kids can take to keep germs and sickness at bay. “Probably the number one reason kids get sick is that their hand hygiene isn’t as good as adults,” says Dr. Martin. Know when to wash.  Kids should wash hands before they eat – and lather up after using the restroom, coughing or sneezing, or coming in from outside. Know how to wash. Experts recommend 20 seconds of vigorous rubbing action with soap and warm water. A popular way to ensure kids have washed long enough? Have them sing the happy birthday song twice. Just make sure they don’t rush through it! And don’t stress about antibacterial cleaners or sprays. “Regular soap is just fine,” says Dr. Holder. “It’s really the scrubbing that does the work.” Keep hands to yourself. Germs are quick to hitch a ride on your little one’s fingers – and then on into your child’s body when they touch their mouth, eyes or nose. On top of hand washing, teach kids to keep hands away from their face. This can be tough for many children, but cutting contact goes a long way toward stopping pesky germs from getting into their system and giving them a bug.

Germ-Proof Your Pad

You may not have much control over the germs your kids are exposed to at school or a friend’s house – but you can guard against them when you're under your own roof. Do a daily wipe-down. You’re probably already staying on top of the major culprits like kitchen countertops and bathroom areas, but there’s a whole host of other household items in need of regular disinfecting. “Use a germ-killing cleaner to wipe down cell phones, remotes, computer keyboards, toys – anything your family’s coming into frequent contact with,” says Dr. Holder. “They need to be kept clean on a regular basis to avoid getting sick.” Show germs the door. Kids often bring home lots of ickies from school or daycare, so set a routine to get rid of the germs as soon as they get home. Make sure they wash their hands immediately upon coming in from the bus or carpool, and consider having them change clothes or take a shower. The more you do, the less those germs have a chance of hanging around your house.

Play All-Around Germ Defense

Changing seasons and new activities mean new places for germs to pop up.  But with some knowhow, you can ward them off no matter where they come from. Conquer cold and flu season. In the winter months, cold and flu often spread like wildfire. On top of keeping your kid’s hands clean, how can you cope? “Boost your child’s immune system with healthy foods like fruits and vegetables to lower their chance of catching what’s going around,” says Dr. Martin. “Zinc and other supplements are okay, but real food is better.” If your child does get sick, keep them home from school so they don’t spread it to others. And while they’re home, keep them away from others in the house. Keep allergies at bay. Pollen, dander and other allergens are not germs – but they often cause some of the same un-fun symptoms, like sneezing, congestion and a runny nose. To combat your child’s allergies, try nasal sprays to flush out the irritants. If pet dander is the problem, make sure children change clothes after playing with their furry friends. And avoid having a pet in your child’s room if they’re allergic. Counteract cuts and scrapes. If your child gets a cut, especially from playing outside, make sure to keep it covered so dirt and bacteria don’t get in. “Use a topical antibiotic on the scratch until it scabs over,” Dr. Martin says. “And be sure to keep your child up-to-date on their tetanus shots. That’s the best way to prevent bacterial infections that come with cuts and scrapes.”