Keeping your kids healthy can be a real challenge during the best of times, but it becomes a definite challenge during the winter months when families are cooped up inside and the transmission of germs becomes common place. In our last Fabulous Deal Alert I mentioned how my family has suffered a number of colds and flu this season. Honestly, it’s gotten to the point where I’m afraid to leave the house for fear my little ones will contract another illness. The grocery store, the library, playdates with friends — you name it. It seems that wherever people gather, someone is coughing or sneezing. So what can a mom do to help keep her kids healthy, short of hiding away all winter long and not having contact with the outside world?
Let’s face it, hiding away isn’t an option, so here are 5 easy tips to help keep your kids healthy this winter:
- Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep. The importance of sleep shouldn’t be overlooked when keeping your kids healthy According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Sleep Foundation, our sleep needs change as we grow older. Newborns need between 12-18 hours of sleep a day while teens need 8.5-9.25 hours (you can view a helpful sleep guideline for different age levels here). Children who don’t get enough sleep can become more susceptible to illness, including colds and the flu. For an interesting read, check out the following WebMD article by Denise Mann: Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds?
- Make sure your kids nutritional needs are met. When I was growing up, my mother cautioned me that I was what I ate (she usually imparted this wisdom in the grocery store when I wanted desperately to fill the cart with Twinkies and CocaCola). Mother was right — we really are what we eat, and it’s essential that our children’s nutritional needs are met. Does this mean that our kids can’t have an occasional cookie or sugary sweet? Of course not, but unfortunately it seems that junk food is all too common in most homes — including mine. To give our kids a head start in fighting infectious germs we really need to limit the candy, sugar, and other empty calories that do little (if nothing) to build the immune system. The Mayo Clinic offers simple nutrition guidelines for boys and girls of all ages. Fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy will give our kids the nutritional building blocks they need to help keep their bodies in tiptop shape.
- Keep your kids active. Exercise is important for our children’s overall health. When I was growing up, the lure of the television was the siren song that enticed us to sit for hours on end. Today, our children face not only the dangers of television, but video games and the internet (hey, at least in my day I didn’t have a remote control and had to get off the couch and walk to the TV to change channels). According to KidsHealth.org, kids 8-18 spend 4 hours a day in front of a television and almost 2 extra hours on the computer or playing video games. When I first read this statistic I was shocked, but when I thought about my own girls’ TV/computer time I realized that it tends to be excessive at times (especially on the weekends). Excess vegging out in front of the TV or computer can lead to an increased risk of obesity and other health related problems. Physical activity can help keep our kids healthy, and exercise can be a family affair as I describe in an earlier article here on TheShoppingMom.com.
- Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing! To prevent the transmission of germs, it’s important that our kids learn the habit of hand washing at an early age. A whole host of nasty viruses and bacteria can be transmitted from touched surfaces — doorknobs, tables, toys, etc. Clean hands can stop the spread of illness and our kids should wash their hands frequently throughout the day — especially before eating. The CDC recommends that hands are washed for at least 20 seconds at a time, or the amount of time it takes to hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice. Not only is effective hand washing one of the easiest ways to stop the spread of germs, its one of the best ways. If everyone learned the practice of good hand washing there would be less illness in our schools, homes, and businesses.
- Keep up to date with doctor visits. Our kids should receive regular medical checkups to ensure they are healthy. Make certain immunizations and boosters are up to date, and consult with your pediatrician about preventative care, including flu shots. Flu shots can’t guarantee complete protection against influenza, but the vaccine can help children from becoming ill. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated annually against the flu, but moms should talk with their doctors to decide what’s best for their family.