It’s no secret that germs are the culprit behind illnesses big and small, but avoiding them can seem like a full-time job for parents. While it’s certainly important to maintain a level of cleanliness and good hygiene to prevent sicknesses that seem to spread like wildfire through groups of children, finding the balance between keeping things clean and striving to maintain hospital levels of sterilization in your home is important for the health of your children and the good of your own sanity.
Stress Good Hand Washing Habits
No matter how clean your home is, your children will be exposed to plenty of germs and potentially harmful bacteria when they’re on the bus, at school or in daycare. The first and most effective line of defense against most of these microscopic invaders is simply good hygiene. Explain the importance of frequent and thorough hand washing to your youngsters, encouraging them to lather up often to avoid germs.
Promote a Healthy Diet and Good Sleep Habits
While a good night’s sleep and a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables may not actively keep germs away, it can help to stave of the illnesses they can cause when children do come into contact with them. Aside from encouraging and instilling the good eating and sleeping habits that kids will need as they get older, strong diets and plenty of rest will prevent many common illnesses in the short term.
Encourage Physically Active Hobbies
The sedentary lifestyle that many of today’s children have become accustomed to doesn’t do their health any favors, from creating an environment that breeds obesity and the health complications associated with it to negatively impacting their immune system. When kids are active and in shape, they’re less likely to be waylaid by a severe cold making the rounds of their classroom.
Provide Hand Sanitizer
Kids may not have access to a sink and soap every time they come into contact with surfaces and objects that are particularly dirty, which is why it’s a good idea to provide them with waterless hand sanitizer. Keep in mind, however, that some schools do prohibit kids from carrying these items, and double-check school policy to ensure that you’re not inadvertently breaking any rules by packing the gel in your kids’ backpacks.
Talk About Appropriate Sharing and Inappropriate Sharing
Because so much of a child’s formative years are spend emphasizing the importance of sharing, it’s not always easy for them to understand the difference between things they should share and things that they should not. Explaining that sharing toys, crayons and pencils is the right thing to do, but that sharing lip balm, hats and hairbrushes can bring on a host of germs and illnesses can help them to better differentiate.
Give Toys a Good Cleaning
It’s wise to sanitize toys with a diluted bleach mixture, or to clean plush toys in an appropriate manner on a semi-regular basis. It’s more important, however, to make sure that they get a thorough once-over after a visit from kids that you know have been sick or after your own little ones recover from an illness. If you don’t sanitize toys at any other time, you should make it a point to do so after colds and flus sweep your home.
Keep Sick Kids at Home
Keeping other parents’ children germ-free is also your responsibility, in a manner of speaking. Rather than sending a child to school, daycare or activities when you know they aren’t feeling well to avoid making alternate childcare arrangements not only leaves them feeling worse, but also exposes all of their peers to the same germs he has. Keeping your ailing child at home, even when it poses an inconvenience, is the responsible thing to do.
Spend Time Outdoors
While old wives’ tales state that spending time outside during the winter months will bring on colds and flus, the opposite actually holds true. During winter, indoor areas become a breeding ground for germs and illnesses. Many airborne bacteria and viruses are passed around in enclosed areas, which makes it a good idea to bundle your kids up and send them out to play if the weather isn’t completely inhospitable. In addition to keeping kids active and engaged throughout the winter, it could also help them avoid many cold and flu-causing germs.
Understand That Not All Germs Can Be Avoided
The key to managing germs without crossing into germ-phobic territory is to understand that while making your best effort to keep things clean and instill good habits in kids will help them stay healthy, not all germs can be avoided. Regardless of how clean and sterile an environment you create within your home, your children will inevitably be exposed to viruses and bacteria in their daily lives. Try to take a more relaxed approach, encouraging good habits and maintaining a reasonable level of cleanliness without aiming to eliminate every germ your child could potentially come into contact with.
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