A cold is a viral infection that affects the nose and throat. There are over 200 germs that can cause a cold.1 The spread of colds is common in littlies because they are constantly touching and playing with different surfaces that germs love to live.
The flu is also a common virus that affects your respiratory system. Flu viruses are typically seasonal, which means that they seem to occur more at certain times of the year; typically this is during the colder months of the year.
When someone who already has a cold or flu sneezes, their germs become airborne droplets, which can survive for up to an hour. The viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to eight hours and on our hands for approximately five minutes after having touched a contaminated surface.2
Around the house, commonly shared surfaces need to be cleaned regularly to ensure that the germs causing colds and flu are eliminated. Some of these shared surfaces include:
- Remote controls
- Computer keyboard and mouse
- Telephone buttons and handles
- Handles of kitchen equipment like saucepans and microwaves buttons
- Benches and counters
- Door knobs and handles
- Benches and counters
What about publicly shared surfaces such as the buttons on ATM machines, the door handles in public toilets, or school desks? Clearly, cleaning such surfaces is not always possible, so teaching kids about the importance of keeping germ free is important.
Hand washing helps prevent the spread of germs that can make us sick like the cold or flu. Teach kids to wash their hands regularly throughout the day using soap and water, especially before meals and after using the bathroom. If they have been exposed to someone with a cold or flu infection, or they are themselves sick, washing their hands, will help reduce the risk of spreading these nasties.
Sneezing and coughing etiquette
While covering the mouth and nose when sneezing reduces the risk of spreading infection, hands should not be used as they become contaminated and kids may spread the infection by touching their mouth or eyes. A better option is to use a tissue to cover the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, which can then be thrown away. Make sure kids’ hands are washed immediately afterwards.
Avoid contact with sick ones
For kids to avoid others with a cold or the flu is not always possible, particularly when they’re catching public transport. At school however, where possible, they could:
- Avoid hugging, kissing or other close contact with infected individuals
- Wash their hands as soon as possible after skin contact with an infected individual occurs
- Avoid borrowing or sharing books and stationery items
- Avoid sharing eating and drinking utensils like straws and spoons
How to boost kids’ immunity
- Fruit such as apples, oranges, grapefruits, berries, mangoes, kiwi fruit and tomatoes are high in vitamin C, which is an important vitamin for kids’ immunity. The white blood cells which help us fight these bugs are called lymphocytes, and they need vitamin C to help them function.3 Include some of these fruits in your child’s lunchbox.
- Encourage physical activity. Exercise is a great way to boost kids’ immunity because it helps circulate our infection fighting white blood cells faster. This means they may detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. Also the brief rise in their body temperature while active may prevent the growth of bacteria that could lead to an infection.4
- Supplements may also be an option; children’s supplements come in all shapes and sizes making it easy to find a format to suit the fussiest of children. Vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc are just a few nutrients that can be found in a variety of immune supplements to help kids get through the cold and flu season.