My children are already immersed in their school year and unfortunately, the cold and flu season is upon us. How do we keep our children healthy during this time of year? Cold and flu season myths? Should I vaccinate my children with the flu shot? I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Eric Troyan
, the Head of Pediatrics
for Kaiser Permanente Orange County
who shared the top 3 recommendations for keeping children as healthy as possible during this susceptible time of the year.
When school starts every year in August or September, it seems as though the children contract either a sniffle or a cough during the first month of the new year. With school aged children, Dr. Troyan shared that the common cold is spread quite easily. Preschoolers and Kindergartners tend to have their hands in their mouths quite often, sharing toys, school supplies or touch common surfaces, aiding in the spread of germs that contain cold and flu “bugs”. During the elementary school years, kids still have regular contact with their peers, and when they initially start back to school, this increases their exposure to everything! Students in grades 6 and higher, tend to have less physical contact, therefore are less prone to contract the common cold or flu.
Anticipating this, I wanted to arm my children with whatever means necessary to aid in their defense against the cold and flu season. I asked Dr. Eric Troyan what I should do, and he shared his top 3 recommendations for keeping the kids healthy:
- Sleep: School aged children should get approximately 10 hours of sleep per night. While every child is different and may not need exactly 10 hours, this is a good guideline to follow.
- Eating healthy: The best defense are vitamins and minerals. Make sure children are getting their daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Since my son avoids anything green, vitamin supplements are an option, however you get more “bang for your buck”, when you stick with fruits and vegetables. Make sure your vitamin supplements contain iron as an ingredient.
- Washing their hands before eating or even touching their face helps to avoid germs. Cold and flu germs are spread quickly through contact with the hands. Encourage your children not to touch their face, and wash their hands as often as possible, especially before meals.
About the Common Cold:
On an average, children can contract roughly 5-7 colds a year. The cold season starts in August (when children return to school) and continues through early March. It is important to follow Dr. Troyan’s recommendations; plenty of sleep, a healthy diet and washing their hands often. Dr. Troyan also shared that hand sanitizer are a good alternative when soap and water are not readily available.
About the Flu:
The Flu vaccine is available in late September. The flu season begins roughly after the first of the year, which is why it is recommended that you get a flu vaccine as early as possible. Early vaccinations allow antibodies can build up in the body, prior to any contact with flu germs. The flu vaccine is recommended for children from 6 months through their teenage years. If your child has a history of other medical conditions, they may be more susceptible to catching the flu, therefore its a good idea to get them vaccinated as an added precaution. It is quite simple to acquire the flu vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Orange County. Beginning September 26th, all Kaiser medical centers will administer flu shots during regular facility hours. If you visit Kaiser’s pediatrics department for your children’s routine check up or flu shot, the whole family can receive their flu shots as well.
Easing the symptoms of the common cold or flu:
Once my children are sick, I always question whether or not I’m doing what is necessary to battle their symptoms. Dr. Troyan eased my mind with these tips that I feel are worth sharing:
- Heavy congestion can turn into a serious infection like bronchitis or pneumonia. Keep your child hydrated with water as it help clears that congestion.
- Other options for congestion include: steam showers, cool mist vaporizers, vapor products and vapor baths – all are quite helpful.
- Utilize over the counter options for common cold symptoms like runny a nose and coughs.
When it’s time for the doctor:
A cold peaks on the 3rd, 4th or 5th day. If you or your child have a fever in excess of 3-5 days, or over over 101, you should consider seeking medical attention. As a mom, on day 3, my concern about the fever increases greatly, so at least I now know that my instincts were correct. By the 3rd day my “mom radar” is through the roof and I’m on the phone making a doctor’s appointment.
With Kaiser Permanente Orange County, you can either call in to make a same day appointment or quickly email the doctor at KP.org. A new feature that is quickly spreading is the ability to see the doctor from home! Dr. Troyan said that he now schedules many appointments with patients utilizing a video conferencing technology via the internet. With his office set up (as seen above), Dr. Troyan can have a video conference with the patient and his/her parents while simultaneously accessing their medical chart. This new technology is truly amazing!
Since I’m a substitute teacher, I also asked Dr. Troyan about sanitizing the classroom during cold and flu season. I usually try to clean off the childrens’ desks before I leave. Many classrooms have sanitizing wipes on hand for the children to use regularly to keep their hands clean. These sanitizing wipes aid in the prevention of spreading the common cold, however wipes with bleach are more effective in preventing the spread of flu viruses. So, when you’re picking up extra supplies to donate to your child’s classrooms, don’t forget a container of Clorox wipes!