Preventing kid colds

Q: How can I prevent my kids from getting sick?

A: The most important factor in avoiding illness is hygiene. Kids seem to love putting things in their mouth and then touching their eyes and noses, which can directly introduce viruses to their system. A few tips for good hygiene:

  • Teach kids about washing their hands well and often with warm water and soap. They can use antibacterial or regular soap. They need to lather up both sides of their hands and sing the Happy Birthday song twice before rinsing off and drying with a clean towel.
  • Change your kids’ clothes when they come home from school or daycare to get viruses or bacteria they were exposed to off of them. 
  • Remind kids of all ages to cough or sneeze not into their hands, but into a tissue or the crook of one of their arms, known to some as a natural “cough pocket.” 
  • Keep kids who aren’t feeling well home from school or daycare until their symptoms clear up. Most colds clear up within a week, but some may last a little longer.  

Many families want to consider alternative therapies for the prevention of illnesses, too. 

One that is supported by good evidence is the use of probiotics, which has shown some success in decreasing colds and diarrheal illnesses. 

If prevention doesn’t work and your child does come down with an illness, over-the-counter (OTC) products, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help with fever or discomfort, but cold medicines don’t offer much help and aren’t recommended.

One additional OTC medication that may reduce the length of a cold is vitamin C, especially when it’s taken right at the onset of the illness. If you have any questions about OTC medications, follow the directions on the bottle to ensure the correct dosage and reach out to your pediatrician. 

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Dr. Gigi Chawla is a board-certified pediatrician and the chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota.