Let’s face it– children are harbingers of germs. And when they come home from school with a cough or cold, it can quickly turn into a health crisis for the whole family.
Vikash Modi, M.D., a family medicine physician at Piedmont shares six ways parents can protect themselves from their sick kids.
1. Be preventative. The best way to protect yourself from sick children is to try to prevent them from acquiring an illness in the first place.
“That’s when an annual wellness exam for the child comes in,” says Dr. Modi. “The child is generally feeling pretty good at a wellness exam. And it’s a good chance to identify issues and talk about overall health, instead of when the child is already sick. And you have to focus on the illness when they come into the office.”
Annual exams are also a good time for children to get routine vaccinations, like the flu shot, which can help protect them from acquiring the virus.
2. Teach good hygiene. Children spread germs when they sneeze, cough and rub their eyes with their hands and then touch other toys or surfaces. Teaching good hand hygiene can significantly reduce the risk of spreading infections.
“Make a game out of cleaning their hands,” says Dr. Modi. “That gets them used to the hand cleansers that are in the classroom and also the soap and water in the bathroom. Set up a reward system, so that every time they clean their hands, they get a sticker or a gold star. Also teach your children to cough into their elbow instead of their hand. And to use a tissue to clean a runny nose, not their hands.”
3. Try to address symptoms early. If one of your children suddenly develops a cough or a runny nose, be proactive. Consider providing your whole family with immune boosters like zinc, vitamin C, and Echinacea.
“A lot of immune boosters come in tablet forms for adults and powder forms that you can mix with a juice or water for kids. Though most people’s immune systems should be able to fight off most of these bugs, taking immune boosters can really help kids and their parents stay ahead of the game.”
4. Sequester sick children. “Anybody with a fever needs to be quarantined,” says Dr. Modi. “It sounds pretty extreme, but if you have two or three kids at the house, and one of them is coming down with a fever, they should be separated so the illness is contained.”
5. Clean well and don’t re-contaminate. When you have a sick child, it’s important to use disinfectant wipes to clean countertops, toys and hard surfaces. Make sure dishes are properly washed, and if possible, assign the sick child their own glass and cup. It’s also important to get rid of the sick child’s toothbrush to prevent recontamination.
“If you use a toothbrush when you are sick, and then you use it when you are healthy, you can get sick all over again,” says Dr. Modi.
6. Get plenty of rest so you won’t get sick as well. “When you are a parent, you put yourself on the front lines and sometimes you go down,” says Dr. Modi. “So it’s important to maintain your own wellness when you are taking care of a sick one.”
Take immune boosters two or three times a day, as a preventative measure. And share the responsibility of the sick child with your spouse or partner, so that everyone can have a break and rest.
“It can get really exhausting when your child is sick,” says Dr. Modi. “Sometimes you have to take a day off of work, and your life gets kind of swept upside down. Make sure everyone is getting plenty of rest and try to maintain your sanity.”
Don’t skip a beat just cause you’re getting sick. Piedmont has more options for getting the care you need when you need it. From urgent care to 24/7 virtual visits from your smartphone or desktop, to same-day appointments and online scheduling. Visit piedmont.org/now to learn more about how you can get care on your time, in good time.