Back to School - Colds and Flu

Schools are breeding grounds for germs. Your kids will have a greatly increased risk of catching infections once they go back to school. Common illnesses include colds, flu, stomach flu, and pink eye. With swine flu added in the mix this year, it is more important than ever to try and protect your kids' health. There are 2 good ways to do this: boosting their immune system and proper hand washing. When a person infected with a virus coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus by droplets. These droplets can infect your child when they come into direct contact, so teach your child to avoid contact with anyone that is coughing, sneezing or ill. People are most contagious the first 3 days of a cold.

Unfortunately, these virus droplets can also land on desks, toys, doorknobs, hands that wipe noses, etc. Your child is also at risk from secondary exposure to the virus when they touch a surface that has been contaminated. The best way to combat that is to wash hands often, wash them well, and always wash before eating. If you have a very young child, show them proper hand washing technique using soap, washing for 30 seconds, and making sure the thumb is well washed too. Singing a short song, like happy birthday, can give a young children an idea of how long 30 seconds take.

The other way to protect your child is to boost their immune system. The primary source for building and maintaining a healthy immune system is good food. Feed them whole grains, fruits, vegetables, wholesome foods, and foods with vitamin C. Avoid fast foods, sugary and processed foods. Kids also need lots of sleep for their growing bodies. Exercise and fresh air is important, as is avoidance of toxins.  Learn more about kids nutrition and health from parenting sites or your pediatrician.

There are some natural products that help boost the immune function which can supplement a good diet. Natural anti-viral formulas contain components like Echinacea, elderberry, astragalus, licorice and extracts of reishi mushroom. How do you tell the difference between a cold and flu? Colds often begin with a sore throat, runny nose or sneezing, cough, congestion, and, sometimes, a low grade fever (below 101 F). Symptoms of the flu include fever - often moderate to high, headache, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, and loss of appetite. Children may also have nausea, diarrhea or vomiting.

If your child does fall ill, treatment will usually consist of rest and plenty of fluids until the viral infection runs its course. Never send your children to school if they have a fever, diarrhea, or are very ill. See a doctor if your child seems very sick or lethargic, if fever lasts more than 3 days, sore throat pain lasts more than 2 days, or if symptoms do not improve or new ones occur within 5 days. Also talk to your doctor if your child's cough gets worse, lasts more than a week, recurs often, or if the cough is accompanied by a rash, high fever or persistent headache.