Keep sick days at bay

Danielle Braff

Getting through a winter with kids usually means endless hours of cuddle time while they nurse their colds, flu and other illnesses. But while cuddle time is nice, it’s even better when your child isn’t accompanied by vomit, snot and other not-so-fun stuff.

Scott Goldstein, MD, a pediatrician with the Northwestern Children’s Practice in Chicago and father of three children between the ages of 2 and 8, shares his top 10 secrets to keeping his kids and his patients healthy.

Wash your hands

This is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer as often as possible – especially before and after meals, after using the bathroom and after being around children.

Get a flu shot

This is the only proven way to protect yourself against the flu. You and your family should get flu vaccines every year because the strains in the vaccine often change annually.

Exercise, exercise, exercise

It helps boost your immune system. There are lots of fun ways for you and your children to exercise in the snow: shoveling, building snowmen, dragging a sled up a hill, skiing and ice-skating. You should also sign your children up for a fitness class such as gymnastics, basketball or dance.

Eat healthy

This goes without saying year-round, but a balanced, healthy diet will keep kids’ immune systems functioning at their peak level.

5-4-3-2-1 rule

Each day, you should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, drink four servings of water, eat three servings of low-fat dairy, watch two hours or less of TV or movies, enjoy one hour or more of physical activity.

Healthy sleep habits

How much sleep does your child need? As much as it takes for him not to seem tired. If you have trouble getting your child out of bed in the morning, or if your child is having meltdowns after school and in the evening, he may not be getting enough sleep.

Encourage reading

Cold days are a good time for you to read to your child or for you to encourage her to read to you. Reading is much healthier for the brain than watching TV or playing video games.

Stay home

If your child is really feeling sick, keep him home. Sick kids in schools or activities spread their germs to others. Plus, if your child isn’t feeling well, he should be home resting. A well-rested child will get better faster than one who is running around all day at school.

Get a check-up

Sometimes, the well-child visits get lost in the sea of sick visits. But well-child visits are an important time for your pediatrician to make sure your child is growing and developing well – and also to vaccinate against some of the major causes of pneumonia and meningitis, which are more common in the winter.

Get outside

There is no reason not to take your kids outside, even when the temperature drops to the teens or 20s. Try to have some outside time every day. This will naturally lead to more exercise and less screen time.