It’s the season for congestion, coughs, fevers, stomach bugs, and more. Yup- germ season. Between gym childcare and preschool, it seems runny noses and rashes are everywhere. I’m pretty sure it’s a rite of passage that as soon as a child begins preschool, the parent ends up searching the internet at least once asking why is my child always sick?
I don’t take germ season lightly. While I don’t consider myself a germophobe, having kids has definitely pushed me more in that direction. Luckily over the past six years of being a mom, I’ve discovered some tricks and picked up great tips from veteran moms on how to keep kids healthy during germ season. Hearing that the flu is pretty rough this year and that the stomach bug has been going through our town like wildfire, I’m more dedicated to these methods then ever. While I doubt we will make it through winter completely unscathed, I’m crossing my (freshly washed) fingers that we’ll at least avoid the worst of it.
12 Tips to Keep Kids Healthy During Germ Season
Wash hands frequently.
Let’s start with the obvious. Science says this is still the best way to avoid getting and passing germs. Hailey is our best handwasher (as Kaitlyn always tried to slyly skip over this step) and because of it, her hands get seriously dry and sometimes crack. She’s been putting Aquafor on the backs of her hands each night before bed and it has helped so much.
When washing hands, we should all scrub up for at least 20 seconds. I’ll admit, I fall short of this more than I should, but I’m trying to convince the kids (and myself) to wash while singing the happy birthday song. We sound loony, but it’s about the minimum amount of time we should be spending soaping up.
Change clothes after spending extended time in public places (school, gym child care, etc).
I’m pretty sure I picked this tip up from my friend, Alison, a few years ago. When Hailey first started going to preschool, around age 2, the first thing I’d do upon arriving home was to strip her down, wash her hands (or take a bath), and put on clean clothes (or sometimes pajamas). Now at ages 6 and 3, we often still follow the same steps. I liken it to the idea of us taking our shoes off at the front door, and it keeps our home more free from excess outside germs.
Studies show poor sleepers get sick more often. Children preschool age should be getting 12-14 hours of sleep per night, and school aged children should be getting 10-11 hours. I’ve always been a nut about my kids getting enough sleep. Mostly for my own sanity, but I am a true believer in it helps their immune systems stay strong as I’ve seen both my body and theirs start to get weary after too many late nights.
Teach kids to cough into their elbow.
What do the cool kids call it now? The dab cough, as nod to Cam Newton? Whatever you call it, I’m a stickler for the kids sneezing and coughing into their elbows to avoid getting more germs on their hands.
Give garlic on a spoon of peanut butter at the first sign of sniffles.
By now you probably know my deep affection for garlic. It’s a powerful antiviral and antibiotic. When either of the girls starts getting a stuffy or runny nose, I give them freshly chopped up garlic. Hailey is hardcore enough that she can sometimes just swallow the small pieces with water, but Kaitlyn needs some coercing, so I put a few tiny pieces on a spoonful of peanut butter and it usually does the trick. Repeat either morning and night or at least every morning. Fun (odd?) fact- when family was in town for Christmas we all had a little freshly chopped garlic everyday to keep the germs away!
Keep their hands away from their mouths.
This one drives me batty because both my girls often have their hands in or around their mouths. I’ll admit I have a bad habit of having my hands around my face too so I know where they get it from. Still, I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to say “hands” but I do because I know it reduces the amount of germs that make it into their systems.
Give vitamins. And elderberry.
I’ll be honest, we are inconsistent with vitamins. I’m a stronger believer in good food and a varied diet, but when germ season kicks in, I step it up and try to remember to give vitamins more often.
Clean household door knobs, remote controls, and light switches on the regular.
These are the main areas germs can accumulate because they are touched so often. This is a great chore for both girls and twice a week I have them tag team cleaning all these spots in the house.
Diffuse essential oils.
I’ll be honest, peppermint is the only oil I can truly vouch for because it made my headache disappear quite quickly! However, I do keep essential oils on hand because I don’t think it can hurt (and I so believe they might help) to use them and I like the smell. Most winter days at home, I run my diffuser with a blend of the immunity blend On Guard, Cinnamon, and Wild Orange. If you are an essential oil fan, I’d love to hear your favorite blends!
Decrease the amount of sugar they are eating.
We don’t eat a lot of sugar around here mostly because I don’t have a sweet tooth and don’t think much about it. Sorry kids. Also, we all know excess sugar just isn’t great for our bodies. I’ve also done my own research and learned how sugar suppresses the immune system. I believe in that wholeheartedly and can see a difference in how my kids act and feel when they’ve had too much sugar.
No sharing utensils, drinks, anything.
I’m not great at this one, as I often share bites or sips of what I’m eating with the girls, but at the first sign of a runny nose or cough, I shut it down and make sure we all stick to our own utensils.
Quarantine when necessary, like before vacation.
Ok, this is where you can call me crazy and I’ll nod in acceptance. I’m a believer in quarantining. About a week before a big event (Christmas, vacation, etc), we go on lock down. This means I cut out all the kids’ unnecessary time spent away from the house. I’ll switch my workouts to times when David can stay home with the kids so I don’t have to put them in the childcare. I’ll go grocery shopping solo if possible. I limit play dates. The works. I know it sounds extreme because you can’t avoid all the germs, but it does seem to help keep us healthy for holidays and trips, so for now I’m sticking to it.
What tips do you have for keeping yourself and your kids healthy during germ season?