We all know the signs too well: the runny nose, deep cough and warm forehead. Keeping your little one healthy can be one of the toughest aspects of having a toddler—especially if they go to preschool.
Small children have an increased risk of coming down with a cold or catching other illnesses because their immune systems aren’t fully matured yet. When they spend the day surrounded by other kids, it can seem like they have the cold or flu every week. You can’t stop them from getting sick completely (nor should you want to—that’s how immune systems grow stronger), but there are some ways to reduce their risks and teach healthy habits:
- Focus on clean hands: Making sure your child knows the proper way to wash his or her hands at school is the most important thing you can do to fight germs. Have your little one recite “Happy Birthday,” practice their ABC’s, or sing one of these fun songs to make sure they suds up for the recommended 20 seconds.
- Keep things out of their mouths: Toddlers love putting anything they can find in their mouths—no matter how dirty it is. This phase doesn’t last forever, but there are some little things you can do to discourage this. One suggestion: Teach children what is OK to put in their mouths and to wait if something has fallen on the floor.
- Fill them up with healthy food: A balanced diet can help their immune system work as well as possible. Lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and dairy should be the bulk of their meals. And when you’re packing up lunch, make sure to include a reusable water bottle. Hydration is important, but the faucets on school drinking fountains can be riddled with bacteria and germs.
- Prioritize good sleeping habits: Poor sleeping habits can nearly double the risk of getting a cold or flu. Ensure your child is getting the right amount of sleep by sticking to a normal bedtime and having them take naps if necessary. Check out these guidelines if you’re unsure how much sleep your child should get.
- Teach them to cover their mouths: To avoid spreading germs around to other kids, teach your child the importance of covering his or her face with the crook of their arm when sneezing or coughing. Keep in mind they watch your every move as well, so if you’re covering up, they will too!
And remember, germs can travel home with your little one. Ensure your entire family is practicing healthy habits as well. When you arrive home, take off shoes, coats and extra items at the door to avoid tracking dirt and germs through your home. From there, head to the sink and ensure everyone has clean hands. The likelihood of colds and other illnesses running through the family will decrease and keep everyone up and running.
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Photo credit: FatCamera.
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