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10 Surprising Tips: Avoid Colds and Flu this Year!

[important]If there was one piece of advice you’d give new parents about sick kids and colds & flu, what would it be? Please leave a comment below.[/important]

You may have noticed the flu season is coming a bit late this year. I would not, however, let down your guard just yet. Unusually warm weather in parts of the country earlier this winter may have slowed down the flu, but it’s likely to be on the rise soon.

As a parent, there is nothing worse than a sick child, right? And as a husband I’d add: next to a sick child, there’s nothing worse than a sick wife. Here are some things we can do to reduce the chance we (either parent) take a cold or flu home to our families.

There's nothing worse than a child with a cold or fluSome of these are the common suggestions, but some I didn’t know. For example: Keep Hands Moisturized to Help Keep Out Germs – small cracks in dry skin can be entry points for unwanted germs, including cold and flu viruses. Here are more tips:

  • Don’t Trust Warm Water to Wash Away Germs – New studies have revealed that washing our hands with warm water alone has virtually no effect on germs. We also need to use soap to kill potentially harmful germs.
  • Try to Stay at Least 6 Feet from Anyone with the Flu – The virus spreads through droplets that are expelled during talking, coughing, and sneezing. Keeping that 6-foot boundary can help keep any stray drops from landing near you. All together now… ewwww!
  • Make Sure Your Sanitizing Gel Has Completely Dried – When using a sanitizing gel, we must continue to rub our hands until they are completely dry. Germs can attach more readily to—and multiply more quickly on—moist surfaces, especially our hands
  • Is It OK to Kiss If You Have a Cold? – Yes! Surprisingly, kissing is not a very easy way to become infected. Kissing studies have shown that only 8% of people kissed by infected partners got colds. That said, best not reenact the From Here To Eternity beach scene.
  • Are they Allergy or Cold Symptoms – Allergy symptoms almost never cause aches, pains, or fever. Colds do. On the other hand, cold and flu symptoms rarely include itchy eyes or frequent sneezing, which are common allergy symptoms. I used to always get these confused.
  • What Exactly Is a “Stomach Flu”? – Is it really the flu? Nope, the “stomach flu” is actually a gastrointestinal infection commonly caused by a virus or bacteria, causing nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The single best treatment is slow and deliberate re-hydration.

[warning]Don’t Fear the Flu Shot – Yes, I know this one will be controversial for some, but since we had our little girl, I’ve gotten a shot every year. I DO NOT want to bring the flu home to my family. More…[/warning]

A flu shot won’t give us the flu. Rarely, the injection can cause fever or muscle aches for a day or two. If the symptoms do not clear up within a few days or they get worse,  you might be experiencing an allergic reaction. See your doctor.

Mom with cold or flu - When mommy's not happy, no one is happyBut wait, there’s more…

  • It’s OK If Your Child Keeps Coughing – Parents can start to worry if their child’s cough lingers. However, be prepared for a cough to linger after cold or flu symptoms have stopped. If your child is age appropriate, consider cough drops or a cough suppressant. It’s OK to treat coughs with an over-the-counter medicine for up to seven days (refer to package label for details). If it has been longer than seven days, contact your doctor.
  • Know When It Could Be Pneumonia – 50% of all cases of pneumonia are caused by a viral infection, which cannot be cured by an antibiotic. However, another type of pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection that can be treated with an antibiotic. Either way, watch for these two symptoms: chest pain that gets more severe as you breathe, and high fever that causes excessive chills or sweating.4 Pneumonia is a serious respiratory illness. If you think you or a family member might have pneumonia, consult a doctor immediately.
  • Treat Allergies to Reduce a Cold’s Chances – In 2006, a French study showed that seasonal allergies (basically your typical allergy symptoms) greatly disrupted sleep patterns and sleep quality, even if the patients didn’t wake up. A lack of quality sleep can disrupt the effectiveness of your immune system and make you more susceptible to cold or flu viruses. If you seem to get colds more often than other people, consider getting an allergy test to determine if this could be one of the sources of your increased susceptibility.
  • Add Humidity to Fight Cold Viruses – Cold viruses thrive in dry, winter air. Keeping your indoor humidity levels between 40% and 60% is recommended to help slow the spread and growth of these viruses, plus it helps maintain a more comfortable environment for you and your family. Consider a Vicks humidifier to help you make it through cold and flu season.
  • This is why it’s called the Common Cold – It is estimated that adults will suffer two to four colds per year, and children could suffer up to 10 colds annually. In fact, on average, people have a cough or cold for 2-1/2 years of their lives.

I’m not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on TV… so none of these tips should replace your physician’s advice. These tips were kindly provided by the good people at Vicks. I love that a company that could make money on illness is helping keep us well!

Vicks - Cough Medicine, Cold Medicine & Flu ReliefI also love Vick’s products, always have. From the VapoRub my mom rubbed on me when I was sick (remember the smell?), to their cool new Nature Fusion line combining the powerful medicine Vicks is known for, with the goodness of real honey.

While this post was sponsored by Vicks, my love affair with their products has been going on my whole life. Visit their website for more tips on how to keep your home cold and flu free this winter, and also to read about all of their wonderful products.

[notice]Please leave a comment with your best tips for new parents on getting their kids through cold and flu season. We’d love your help.[/notice]

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  1. Annette Gendler

    Give your kid a Cold-Eeze to suck on as soon as she has signs of sniffles. So far it’s worked every time in at least shortening that cold, if not nipping it in the bud altogether.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks so much for your comment and advice, Annette! I have heard that zinc (as used in Cold-Eeeze lozenges) can shorten a cold’s duration if used early enough. I would caution parents that some report Zinc nasal sprays (and gels), a popular remedy for the common cold, carry a small risk of damaging a person’s sense of smell and those affected may have long-lasting or even permanent damage. I’d check it out with your doctor first.

  2. @AWonder

    My advice is simple and has served me well: Touch no one, avoid everyone and no matter how cute children look, do NOT hug them! (chuckle)

    And should that not work, I find sanitizing/washing hands after touching door knobs or other public access things keeps germs at bay.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Oh… that kid cuteness factor is a tough one to resist. 😉 At the least, though, washing one’s hands and/or sanitizing often sounds like great advice! Thank you.

  3. @AWonder

    I’d also like to add that best way to get kids through the cold season is to teach them good habits like proper hand washing, sneezing in tissues, etc. Also, know what signs or changes to look for in your child. Whenever my son was sick, he’d become very quiet and lethargic. He rarely coughed or exhibited other flu like symptoms but his behavior changed. Look for things that are out of the ordinary for your child. Also, if possible try to limit their contact with children who are ill or were recently ill. And lastly, trust your gut. As new parents, it can be scary if our child isn’t feeling well but we are their best advocate. Have a good relationship with your doctor or nurse and don’t be afraid to call and ask questions.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I agree entirely, Teaching kids good habits, like proper hand washing is huge. Any tips on how to do that. I make my 3 year old wash, and demonstrate how thoroughly and long to do it, but if I’m not watching, she doesn’t always do it? Oh, and teaching her not to touch her nose (a hard one), eyes and mouth is another challenge.

      Know what signs or changes to look for in your child. Whenever my son was sick, he’d become very quiet and lethargic. He rarely coughed or exhibited other flu like symptoms but his behavior changed. Look for things that are out of the ordinary for your child. Also, if possible try to limit their contact with children who are ill or were recently ill. And lastly, trust your gut.

      Thanks for the great advice. Yes, as a new parent like me, I don’t always know what is serious or what’s not. I guess it’s better to err on the side of too much caution than not. Thanks again!

  4. Danielle

    1) Handwashing is the most most most important. Warm water is best as hot and cold both shock your senses and make them do different things. I used to say sing happy birthday song or the abc’s twice :) , most schools have hand washing songs now too, although I’m trying to keep them from my brain.

    2) I recently read that if you get the flu shot while pregnant it actually decreases the likelihood of you OR your baby from getting the flu for 6 months post baby :) . sweet! (most mds still recommend getting approval from the gyn first)

    3) If your kid is given a 10 day or 3 day antibiotic please please please take all days. Do not think (even for adults) that when you feel better youc an stop. This is part of how super-virus’s occur and its not something you want your kid to be a part of (or yourselves)

    4) in general,, watch dosage and if you dont know or can’t read the container call your local drug store (many open 24 hrs or have 800 #s that are) to talk to a pharmacist. Overdosing or Underdosing is not good.

    D

    1. Michael Schmid

      1) I’ve heard that “happy birthday song” idea, but have never thought to teach that to our little girl. Thanks for reminding me. Yes, hand washing is key.

      2) Cool news about an added benefit of a flu shot while pregnant. I guess that makes since since breast milk is imparting much of the immunity at first?

      3) Oh man, those super bugs scare the cr@p out of me. We always take the full course. Some people think because symptoms stopped they can stop.

      4) We have a magnet with a nursing hotline on our fridge. It’s hard when dealing with little kids to figure out (by weight or age?) how much to give.

      Thanks so much for these great tips, Danielle! :)

  5. LeAnne

    Well… having kids with ridiculous allergies, we have learned the difference pretty quickly.

    However,

    At the grocery store I’m a Nazi about the wipes on the grocery cart. I wipe down everything I can before I touch it and put my kids in the cart. I also hand sanitize when I enter the daycare and on my way out. I’ve been teaching my boys to sneeze into their elbows so that we don’t risk getting the ewie germs on our hands.

    and I work in a school, so if at all possible, I don’t touch handles. ever. :)

    1. Michael Schmid

      Excellent, points, LeAnne. Thank you! I do that, too… the wipes on the grocery cart. People sometimes look at me funny, but why risk it. I used to always use wipes on the table at restaurants where our little girl was sitting, but have slacked off a bit on that.

      Our girl learned how to sneeze into her elbow. That’s a huge one for all of us, isn’t it? As for handles, I especially avoid bathroom door handles upon exiting. Fortunately many places have put a trashcan by the door for paper towels people use to open the door.

  6. Angie

    You’ve made very good points Michael… I run into people all the time who have the misconception that the flu shot causes them to catch the flu…. This is simply very unlikely. It’s my understanding that the flu shot contains ‘dead’ flu virus, and the flu mist contains ‘almost dead/weakened’ virus…. In any case a healthy child or adult should be able to build the antibodies without feeling just a bit rundown for a couple of days or in my case, feeling no effect at all luckily. 😉

    1. Michael Schmid

      Your understand about the flu shots is the same as mine, Angie. I’ve never had a side effect, though a very small number may have allergy issues (e.g. if they are sensitive to eggs). The more of us that get these shots the more the proverbial “herd” is protected and the less the illness will spread. I work at a University, so there are lots of worn down students running around, and I’d never want to bring something home to my little girl. I really appreciate your comment, Angie!

  7. Ron

    Excellent post. I will use these tips you provided. Me and my little one got our shots back in December. But like you said I wouldn’t let my guard down.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Yeah, Ron… I just have a feeling if the weather changes (as it’s done in some places) and gets colder, then the flu may start to spread more. Glad you and your little one got protected. My wife, little girl and I did, too.

  8. Aaron Turner

    Hello Michael!

    I am already over my “flu season”. I got it from my dad but vitamins and relax helped me and it did not last too long. Fortunately my kids did not get it and I hope already they’ll not get it! :)

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hello, Aaron. I’m sorry you and your dad succumbed this year, but happy to hear your kids did not. Any particular vitamins you felt helped you? Yes, rest is a big help in healing.

  9. Aaron Turner

    I am eating multi vitamins from Scitec Nutrition. Usually it could protect me against the viruses and/or infections except now. :) But at least my healing time was very short and yet 2-3000mg vitamin-C per day can be also very good in these period.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Vitamin-C does have a natural antihistamine type of effect, though in high doses it can have some other less pleasant effects? I’ve not heard of Scitec Nutrition. Looking a their site, they seem to be targeting bodybuilders. I’m definitely not that. 😉 I am working with a personal trainer though. Thanks for stopping back with this info!

  10. Mama, Hear Me Roar

    What an informative post, thank you!

    Whenever I and my little ones get the merest hint of a cold, we gargle with a warm salt water solution, eat raw garlic (garlic on buttered toast is the most palatable), and drink freshly squeezed lemon juice (unsweetened). These natural remedies have worked wonders for us, and we have rarely been to the doctor’s for any cold medication in the past few years.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you! My mom used to have us gargle with salt water, too. Does it matter if it’s the Iodine kind or should it be pure sea salt? I’ve heard of garlic’s purported benefits. I understand the jury is still out on that, but I see no harm in trying. And lemon juice which has vitamin-c should have some natural antihistamine effects at the least. Thanks so much for your suggestions. Unfortunately our little girl is sick… and I just caught her cold, so in addition to the Vicks rub, I’ll give these a try.

  11. Amber

    Great tips, thank you for sharing.

    I hate getting sick. I tend to cry when I throw up so I try to avoid it. So far taking One A Days seems to help.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi, Amber. Thanks for stopping by. It’s interesting how many people (including doctors) think vitamins are a total waist of money. While I do agree many supplements are just flushed own the proverbial and literal toilet, that’s not true of all. I certainly don’t see how a One A Day vitamin could hurt. Oh, and I try to avoid throwing up, too. 😉

  12. Catwoman

    Very informative post! Thanks for sharing this useful advice. I’m a mom of 2 and every year almost one of them gets the flu. I don’t like injections and strong medicines, I’ve always preferred natural solutions. In the flu-season I usually give homeopathic medicines to my family, and a higher dose of Vitamin C.

    1. Michael Schmid

      You’re very welcome. I must give much of the credit to Vicks who sponsored the post, and provided many of the tips. Per your comment, I’ve never understood how homeopathic products could work, but if they do for you, that’s great. :)

  13. Graham

    My Mum used to always threaten us with brown paper and lard when we had colds!

    I’ve always found that upping the amount of fruit and veg you give them in order to boost vitamin C is always good, maybe look into supplements – but always check the dosages for kids!

    Nothing beats giving them chicken soup when they’re off sick as well.

    Thanks for the post :-)

    1. Michael Schmid

      Great tips, Graham… well, except perhaps for the brown paper and lard? 😉 Thanks for dropping by!

  1. What is Influenza? Cold versus Flu? What to do For The Flu?

    […] How can you get influenza? Good question. When someone with the flu coughs or sneezes (or even just talks) tiny droplets containing the virus travel through the air. We can then catch the flu by either inhaling the droplets, or by touching things the virus ends up on, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Remember the cough in the crook of your elbow trick, and wash your hands thoroughly and often (and use hand sanitizers if you can’t wash them). I wrote another post you should read with 10 Surprising Tips: Avoid Colds and Flu this Year! […]

  2. What is Influenza? Cold versus Flu? What to do For The Flu?

    […] How can you get influenza? Good question. When someone with the flu coughs or sneezes (or even just talks) tiny droplets containing the virus travel through the air. We can then catch the flu by either inhaling the droplets, or by touching things the virus ends up on, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Remember the cough in the crook of your elbow trick, and wash your hands thoroughly and often (and use hand sanitizers if you can’t wash them). I wrote another post you should read with 10 Surprising Tips: Avoid Colds and Flu this Year! […]

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