As the outside temperature plummets the incidence of the common cold soars, particularly in more vulnerable populations like children.
With around two hundred different cold viruses out there, it’s easy to think prevention is a lost cause, but these five simple tips may be just what you need to help protect your children – and yourself – this winter.
1. Regular and thorough hand washing
Hand washing is the best and most simple defence against the germs that cause colds. There are several key times parents should insist on the practice, including:
- After school or playing outside
- After going to the toilet
- After touching animals
- Before eating
- After nose-blowing or coughing
And sticking little hands under running water for a nanosecond doesn’t really cut the mustard either. For the best chance of stopping a cold in its tracks, kids should use warm water, rub both sides of their hands together to work up a soapy lather and wash in between fingers, up to the wrist. Their hands should be dried well with a clean towel.
2. Use tissues
Although using hands to cover the mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing is a common preventative etiquette, unless kids wash immediately afterwards, the spread of germs is still likely. Coughing or sneezing into a tissue and then discarding it and washing the hands is the best way to stop a cold, but if tissues are unavailable (or if kids refuse to use them), the inside crook of the elbow is the next best way to limit germs multiplying.
3. Eat to limit colds
Eating a balanced diet is important to sustain health and wellbeing and is vital to healthy immune systems and the prevention of colds.
Cold-fighting foods include:
- Food rich in Vitamin C – peaches, strawberries, red capsicum and broccoli
- Mushrooms – many different varieties are high in beta-glucans, believed to strengthen the immune system
- Oats – contain vitamins E and B, a number of minerals as well as beta-glucans
- Honey and natural yoghurt – high in germ-fighting properties
If getting children to eat such foods regularly proves difficult, vitamin supplementation with a quality kid’s multivitamin may prove useful.
Regular moderate physical activity has lots of health benefits but a lesser-known advantage is that it may also keep colds at bay. A recent US study of 1,000 people found that those who regularly did aerobic exercise were less likely to catch a cold and if they did and their symptoms were less severe. Another reason to get off the couch and outdoors working up a little sweat!
Some experts, such as the director of the University of Texas Sleep Centre, Diwakar Balachandran, MD, believe there is also a direct link between not getting enough sleep and an impaired ability to fight off colds, flu and other infections.
References available on request