For those of you with babies or young children, you know flu season can be very serious business. Catching the flu can be scary and even deadly for children under 5, and is even scarier in toddlers and babies under the age of 2! The flu can also be the “foot in the door” for many other health hazards to occur, like RSV or pneumonia. While technically the flu can occur at any time of year, most commonly it tends to circulate faster during colder weather seasons. Having had a baby during the month of November- right at the start of flu season, I was so scared and paranoid about my new little one getting sick and not being able to take care of her! Of course, sometimes there is just no avoiding illness and you should always be well informed and prepared for it, just in case, but the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do is to take every measure you can to PREVENT it from happening in the first place! Here are some of the best tips and practices (some obvious, some not so obvious) I have found to keep the germs away and prevent illness before it starts!
1- Wash Your Hands. A lot. Ok, ok…so this one is WAY obvious, but no matter how often we hear it, we really don’t wash them enough, and more importantly we are not washing them properly. We should be scrubbing with an antibacterial soap for a full 20 seconds at least (or however long it takes you to sing “happy birthday” twice in your head, ha!) then rinsing under hot water every single time we wash. I am a bit of a paranoid hand washer, but even I am guilty of putting soap into my hands and just rubbing them together under the water for three seconds and calling it good. Thoroughly washing hands is the best prevention.
2- Not Just Your Hands. Your Little’s Hands Too! Many people don’t think about washing their babies hands regularly, but think about it! Most babies and toddlers CONSTANTLY have their hands in their mouths. And all over the floor. And on everything they touch. And sometimes in their diaper. And back in the mouth again. Kid hands carry a disgusting amount of germs. Don’t forget to wash them. Or baby wipe them at the least, right?
3- Don’t Let Them Go To Bed With Wet Hair. Bath time is a regular, nightly routine for many kids getting ready for bed. If you are anything like me and feel crazy and frazzled by the end of the day, sometimes it might be super tempting to put them to bed with wet hair. While you will NOT actually get sick because of wet hair, having wet hair when you sleep means a wet pillowcase, which means you are colder and more uncomfortable trying to sleep. If you already have the virus in you and your body is trying to fight it off before you get sick, then you need to be comfortable and get as much sleep as possible so your immune system can fight at full strength before you feel the symptoms.
4- Don’t Forget the Vitamins. Most pediatricians recommend a daily vitamin for children under the age of 5. Making sure your child is getting all of their essential vitamins will help their immune system stay strong for fighting illness.
5- Keep Your Lips Away! I am so guilty of this, but I just love little baby lips and kisses! During flu season though, mouth to mouth contact is one of the most direct ways illness can be transferred, so try to refrain from too many kisses (or any!). Especially in new babies, try to keep touches and kisses away from their face. If you have older children, tell them to only touch the baby on top of the head, don’t touch the hands (because they are usually ending up in baby’s mouth one way or another) or the face…especially close to the mouth.
6- IT IS OK TO SAY NO! When you have a newborn, it feels like a million people will ask you if they can hold it or touch him or see her. Well, I didn’t mind them looking so much, but then they couldn’t help but touch her, too! Let’s face it, I have little self control when it comes to babies because they are so dang scrumptious I just want to snuggle them, but for the health of the baby, especially during flu season, keep people away! I will do a follow up post on tips for keeping people away from baby because telling people “no” always felt so hard and rude, but it is your child’s health and people really DO understand…so don’t be afraid to say no.
7- Be Selfish. You have a drink and your husband wants a sip? Your sister comes to visit and wants you to try her new lipgloss? Your three year old wants a bite of your sandwich? Time to get selfish. NO. NO. NO. Illness spreads so quickly because people often don’t know they are sick for the first several days, the illness is incubating in your body. If you are incubating an illness, you can pass it on to others…even if you never end up showing symptoms! Plus it is a great excuse to be selfish, and who doesn’t love being selfish once in a while?
8- Stock up on Sanitizer. I love, love, LOVE the little pocket hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works. They smell delicious and they fit anywhere, making them perfect for on the go. You can use them after changing diapers, to sanitize the bar of the shopping cart, or just if your hands feel yucky. Keeping an extra bottle in a few extra rooms in the house is a great idea because you can just pump and continue on with your business without having to run up to the bathroom to wash. For newborns, it is an excellent idea to have this around because you can avoid the embarrassment of asking your guest to go find the sink and wash up (especially if they aren’t “birthday song” type washers). It makes having clean hands for the new baby so much easier. Great for toddlers too because they are always on the go!
9- Hit the Snooze Button. Really. Getting a little bit more sleep will give your body a longer time to rest and recharge, making your immune system stronger and healthier. If you can make it to bed a half hour early, sleep in a little, or get a cat nap once in a while your body will thank you for it. This is especially important for kids. Get them to bed on their bed time, and if they are acting tired, let them sleep or take a nap. I know many people might argue with me on this one, but even if your child has a schedule, if they are acting sleepy a half hour before their naptime, just let them have the extra half hour because their body might need it to build up immunity strength.
10- Bundle up. Warm and dry, warm and dry, warm and dry. Keep that mantra in mind when dressing your little one for the day. Put them in something that will keep their body warm and dry because that will help them stay healthier and more resistant to illness.
11- Clean Eating. This one is probably another obvious one, but it is one of the most important. Eating healthy and making sure your child is getting all of their vegetables is the best way to make sure you are helping their body build a strong immune system. For you breastfeeding mommies, eating healthy will produce better quality milk for your baby (even though breastmilk is already the most awesome substance there is for your child no matter what you eat!)
12- Vaccinate. I absolutely, one hundred percent agree with vaccinating yourself and your child. I know there is a lot of controversy on the subject, but much of the confusion with that controversy is because people do not have all of the information or know all of the facts. For flu season, I recommend a flu shot and more importantly, parents should get a vaccination for Pertussis (aka Whooping Cough.) If you are pregnant you can actually get a flu shot while you are pregnant and the vaccine will be able to help your growing baby too! Make sure to speak with a doctor before getting any vaccines for your child or yourself and know what your options are first.
If you try to do all of these tips, or even if you try your best to just do a few of them, your chances of getting ill this winter will be significantly decreased! While there isn’t anything to prevent illness one hundred percent of the time (unfortunately) having a few preventive secrets in your back pocket will certainly make you feel more prepared and more like Super Mom!