10 tips to keep kids healthy during the cough&cold season

It’s here! The much-dreaded cold&cough season! Before I became a pediatrician, the year had four lovely seasons: Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter. Now it has “cough&cold season”, “sports physicals seasons”, “back-to-school season” and sadly, “anxiety-season” (but that’s a story for another blog). As with everything else in medicine, colds are so much easier to prevent than treat! Here are my top-10 tips on how to “winterize” your kids and keep them healthy during the “cold&cough” season:

  1. Hand-washing: it sounds boring, but believe it or not, this is my #1 tip to prevent nasty colds. Teach kids to wash their hands with soap and water before they eat and after they go to the restroom. Hand-sanitizers are a great human invention, but save them when you’re on the road or there’s no water and soap available. Speaking of soap, use regular soap, not the fancy “antibacterial” one. (Here’s more on the perils of Triclosan, a common ingredient found in “antibacterial” soaps: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706623/TRICLOSAN/). Also teach kids not to touch their face, pick their nose or bite their finger nails, as this increases their changes of getting sick.
  2. Nasal saline rinses: clear those cute noses with nasal saline few times a day. My favorite nasal saline spray for kids also has Xylitol, that prevents little bugs to stick to the nasal mucosa.
  3. Bedside humidifier: nothing fancy, just start running a bed-side humidifier as soon as the weather gets cold to keep the nasal mucosa nice and moist.
  4. Exercise: a lifestyle that includes regular exercise improves resistance to infection!
  5. Nutrition: I recommend an anti-inflammatory diet rich in vegetables, fruits, green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, fish, nuts, seeds, and low in sugar and processed food.
  6. Nutritional supplements: as a rule of thumb, I don’t like kids to take pills of any kind, prescriptions or supplements. However, some kids are not big fans of the anti-inflammatory diet. If you think your child does not have a good diet, the supplements that I would recommend are: omega 3, a multivitamin, and probiotics. I also recommend for kids with any chronic condition or for those who don’t spend time outside, to check their vitamin D3 levels and supplement if it’s low.
  7. Stress management: stress can weaken the immune system so kids need to learn to de-stress daily . Here are a couple of tips on stress management techniques for children.
  8. Sleep: a good-night sleep is one of the main pillars of health and often a neglected one!  Sleep deprivation is mostly an issue in teenagers, so try to convince your teens to go to bed early.
  9. Good hydration! Preferably with water, water, water – have I mentioned water? No juices, no sodas. Soups are also a great way to keep little one hydrated while providing good nutrition.
  10. Last but not least: stay away from sick people! Don’t take kids to birthday parties when you know that one of their friends has a cold.