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A Key Tool in Flu Prevention: Your Child’s Elbow

Children Flu Sneeze Elbow SickYou can help stop cold and flu season in its tracks by helping your child learn to take a hands-free approach to hygiene. In other words, teach your little one to cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow instead of into the hand.

Here’s why: If your child blocks a sneeze with his hands, the germs then spread to anything he touches – desks, chairs and pencils – and they can remain contagious for several hours.

And it doesn’t take much of a sneeze to start the spread of germs. Just one “achoo” releases thousands of infectious droplets into the air. It’s no wonder scientists estimate that about 80 percent of infections are transmitted by hand!

You can help make this stay-healthy strategy a habit by designating a “sneeze spot” on your kid’s sleeve with a sticker. But why is the elbow the safest spot to catch a cough? Unlike the hand, it doesn’t touch much of anything.

Finally, make sure your whole family does the elbow sneeze all year long – not just during cold and flu season – to remind your child to follow suit.

10 Cold & Flu Kid-soothing Secrets

The average kid suffers through eight colds a year, which means that all parents become well versed in nursing a miserable, sniffling child back to health. That’s why we turned to the experts — real moms and dads like you — for their go-to moves for easing symptoms, entertaining bored kids and staying sane during sick season. The next time your little one is under the weather, try using a few of these tips and tricks:

  1. Find restful activities.
    “To keep my 21-month-old son entertained when he’s under the weather, I focus on activities he can do while seated, like puzzles, coloring books and stickers. We also work on little skills, like “pull off your sock’ or “try to get your slipper on by yourself.’ It sounds small, but it keeps him resting while he’s occupied. I also let him watch TV and play with my iPhone or iPad: Since he’s usually not allowed to do those things, it’s a big treat.” — Brooke Lea Foster, parenting blogger (MommyMoi)
  2. Serve up cold-fighting foods.
    “I feed my kids meals that help boost their immune system and speed the healing process: foods rich in vitamin A (carrots and broccoli), vitamin C (pineapple, strawberries and OJ) and zinc (whole-grain cereal, lean meat and beans). Getting enough fluids is also crucial, so I encourage them to drink water and sip soup. My mom makes the best chicken soup, and she always drops off a batch when someone is sidelined with a cold.” — Elisa Zied, registered dietician with a master’s degree, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips and Feed Your Family Right!, founder/president of Zied Health Communications
  3. Scrub right way.
    “To prevent the spread of germs throughout the house and to yourself, instruct your kids to wash their hands regularly. Studies show that kids typically only run the water for five seconds and leave with their hands dripping wet, which isn’t effective. Teach them to sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ or say their ABCs as the scrub up, and dry their hands thoroughly on a clean towel afterwards.
    Also make sure that you do the same — only 30 percent of adults hit the sink after coughing or sneezing! If you sometimes forget, consider leaving a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer right outside of your sick child’s room.” — Harley Rotbart, M.D., professor and vice chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Denver, author of Germ Proof Your Kids, father of three
  4. Ask for a hand.
    “To keep my own sanity when the kids are sick, I call in the reserves! My mother-in-law lives locally, so she’s a big help and a fun person to visit when the kids can’t play with their buddies. I might plan an outing for the evening — maybe a movie with girlfriends — so I have something to look forward to after being cooped up in the house all day.I also ask my husband for assistance. We recently had to give our 2-year-old daughter eye drops, and it was a team effort. My husband held and distracted her, while I applied the medicine and repeated the word “gentle” to calm her down. When we finished, we clapped, sang and danced, and all was forgotten in no time.” — Elizabeth Detmer, mom of two
  5. Provide comfort.
    “During a cold, the main goal is to keep your child comfortable — dressing in light layers and turning down the thermostat if necessary. Sometimes I’ll run a cooling bath to provide some relief and, if necessary, offer ibuprofen or acetaminophen for a fever.” — Dr. Hannah Chow, pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
  6. Break out special treats.
    When my two kids are sick, I bring out a goody bag that I keep for rainy days or when they’ve been especially good. It’s usually just filled with stuff that I’ve picked up at sales, like activity packs, puzzles, small toys and other seasonal crafts.
    In the evenings, I’ll warm up apple cider, ginger tea with honey and lemon or vanilla soymilk, which is soothing. I try to cater to my kids when they’re under the weather, because being sick is no fun.” — Joanne Kim, mom of two
  7. Fluff an extra pillow.
    “My 4-year-old has an abundance of energy, so I know he’s sick when he actually slows down. To clear up his stuffy nose, I use a saline spray and prop an extra pillow under his head to help him breathe easier while he’s sleeping.
    I’ve also taught him how to sneeze into the crook of his elbow so that he doesn’t spread germs. It’s hard to take care of a little one when you’re sick too!” — Holly Tillotson, mom of one
  8. Freeze popsicles.
    “Cold popsicles help soothe sore throats. Try making your own from drinks that also provide a dose of vitamin C, like orange juice and fresh berry smoothies.” — Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian who holds a master’s in public health, clinical pediatric dietitian in the community education department of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association
  9. Play it on repeat.
    “Although it can drive me crazy, I let my kids watch their favorite movies as many times as they want. My 3-year-old daughter just had a stomach bug and watched Tangled three times over two days. I knew she was feeling better when she got up to sing and even dance a little during the song “Mother Knows Best.” — Betsy Stephens, blogger (Working for Cookies)
  10. Bend the rules.
    “My biggest advice for our own sanity as moms is to drop the demands. Let me explain: As parents, we ask our kids to do things, from the simple ‘drink your milk’ to the complex ‘clean your room.’ Then we have to follow through and make sure they listen to us. When kids are sick, they’re less able to do as we say, because they’re cranky and miserable. Any little thing can trigger a meltdown. So it makes sense to table regular requests (pick up your toys), but follow through on anything that you do ask (put the tissue in the trash can). This approach will make it easier for children to transition back to meeting your behavior expectations when they’re feeling better.” — Carin Daddino, former special education teacher and mom of two

What Foods Will Keep Your Family Healthy All Winter??

Chicken soup for the common coldThis winter, a whopping 20 percent of Americans will come down with a bad case of the flu. But you don’t have to be one of them…and neither does anyone else in your family! Research shows that, in addition to getting your flu shot, eating certain foods can help you avoid the flu — as well as colds and illness in general. Here’s what to add to your grocery cart.

Yogurt

Probiotics, the healthy bacteria in yogurt, literally crowds out invading bad bacteria that’s trying to get into your system. That’s why, in one study, people who consumed a yogurt drink that contained Lactobacillus reuteri over an 80-day period took 33 percent fewer sick days. To make sure you’re getting a good dose of probiotics, look for the words “live bacteria” and “active cultures” on the label. Bonus: Yogurt is rich in calcium, which is essential for strong, healthy teeth, and most kids love it!

Garlic

This favorite flavor-booster contains allicin, a compound that fights off bacteria. According to a large British study, people who downed a daily garlic capsule for three winter months were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. If they did get sick, they suffered for about four fewer days. Adding cooked garlic to your food might be even more effective.

Tea

According to a Harvard study, drinking black or green tea can rev up your immune system’s T cells so they destroy bacteria more quickly. And the antioxidants in green tea are great for your teeth. A large Japanese study found that every cup reduces gum inflammation.

Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in this flavorful fish, help cells remove toxins and take in nutrients more efficiently. And a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consumed the most omega-3s decreased their risk of gum disease by 22 percent.

Chicken Soup

Don’t wait until someone in your family is sick to serve up some soup. Cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking, helps calm the usual over-the-top response your immune system has to cold germs that causes many of the worst symptoms from a stuffed-up nose to a wracking cough. And it doesn’t have to be homemade. A University of Nebraska study published in Chest found that most supermarket brands prevented and alleviated cold symptoms just as effectively. On a cold winter day, think hot bowl of soup.

Kid-friendly Foods That Soothe

When children are under the weather, they usually turn to Mom for comfort. This season, be prepared with tasty treats that do double duty – they soothe symptoms and help speed up the healing process.

“Runny noses, coughs and intermittent fevers can all be soothed at home,” says Dr. Ben Lee, a hospitalist at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern, in Dallas. “The old adage of a bowl of chicken noodle soup does have some truth, as it provides necessary fluids and calories to help kids feel better.”

There are other options too. Here are a few unexpected, inexpensive and tasty treats to have on hand for your kids this cold and flu season.

Oatmeal Cookies

Every mom knows that extra sleep is key for sick children, but getting an unhappy child to climb into bed is seldom an easy task. Oats contain high levels of tryptophan, the amino acid best known for making you feel sleepy after eating a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. A bowl of oats may be a bit heavy on the stomach, especially for a sick kid, but eating one or two oatmeal cookies will produce the same effect and help kids settle down and get the rest they need to feel better.

100 Percent Juice Drinks

It’s normal for most kids to become mildly dehydrated while sick with the flu. Watch for signs, which include a dry or sticky mouth, dry skin, irritability and dizziness. “Liquids are important to prevent dehydration,” says Lee.

The right liquids make all the difference, though. Avoid caffeinated beverages and hydrate kids with 100 percent juice. All-natural juice drinks are fat-free and nutrient-dense, and are loaded with vitamins and immunity-boosting antioxidants that many of their sugary counterparts lack. If the juice is too sweet or strong, mix it with an equal amount of water to dilute the taste without washing away the nutrients. Kids younger than 1 year should hydrate with a beverage that contains electrolytes.

Ginger Ale or Ginger Candies

Many studies have shown that ginger curbs nausea and alleviates an upset stomach. The trick is to find foods and beverages that actually contain pure ginger. Look for the words “ginger” or “ginger extract” on the ingredient list. Some sodas, especially those available in natural food stores, are going to be your best bet. Ginger candies made from real ginger can also help provide relief for older children.

Ice Pops

A cool ice pop can numb irritated nerve endings to help soothe an inflamed sore throat and provide fluids to quell dehydration. Seek out ice pops made from 100 percent juice or fruit puree, and avoid unnecessary artificial sweeteners and additives. Ice pops made from 100 percent juice are loaded with healthy antioxidants, and those fortified with extra vitamins and minerals can give added boost to the immune system to help speed recovery time.

Honey

Honey is extremely effective at soothing coughs, according to research from Penn State College of Medicine. In fact, a small dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime reduced the severity and frequency of coughs and provided significant relief to participants in a recent study.

“Honey has been reported to reduce coughing by coating the throat to help reduce irritation,” says Lee. One to two teaspoons thirty minutes prior to bedtime should do the trick, he says. An important warning: Children under 2 years old should avoid this sweet soother to prevent the risk of a botulism infection.

Moms: How to Sleep Soundly, Even When You’re Sick

Sore throat. Stuffy nose. Wheezing cough. When you’re sick with a cold or flu, all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a week or two. But your pesky symptoms make it impossible to rest easy. When bedtime finally rolls around, you actually feel worse than you did during the day.

“When you have a cold or the flu, congestion worsens at night,” says Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the respiratory care department of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Cold and Flu. “When you lie down, the airways are more likely to become clogged with mucus.”

Here’s how to stop tossing and turning, and get a restorative night’s sleep.

  1. Have a tea party. Before you go to bed, sip a mug of decaffeinated black tea. The antioxidant-rich beverage contains theobromine, which is a natural cough suppressant, and the heat thins mucus. Add lemon to help cut through congestion and honey to soothe the throat.
  2. Rinse away congestion. Wash away gunk that’s interfering with your breathing by doing regular nasal rinses. Nasal rinse kits can be found at most drugstores and are easy and painless to use. Essentially, you are rinsing your nasal cavity with a mixture of distilled water and sodium. This helps to clear passages and keep them moist. If you’re uncomfortable with a nose rinse, try a saline nasal spray instead. This also helps to flush out the nose, which makes breathing easier, says Dr. Schachter.
  3. Pamper a sore throat. “The throat feels sore during an infection because the mucus that is lining the throat is filled with inflammatory compounds,” says Dr. Schachter. Add half a teaspoon table salt to warm water, gargle for 10 seconds and spit out. Removing the virus-laden mucus relieves both sore throat and coughing.
  4. Darken your bedroom. It’s important to create a healthy environment that promotes quality sleep. Since incoming light tells the brain to wake up, try to block morning light from reaching your eyes. You can accomplish this by hanging dark curtains or by wearing a comfortable sleep mask that covers your eyes. Also, if you have a brightly illuminated alarm clock, make sure it’s not facing you during the night.
  5. Keep it cool. In your bedroom, set the thermostat low. When your body temperature drops, your brain goes into sleep mode. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 54 F and 75 F.
  6. Take a hot shower. Before bed, muster the strength to take a hot shower. When you get out, the drop in body temperature helps prepare your brain for sleep. Bonus: Steam loosens congestion and hydrates your nasal and throat passages.
  7. Slip on socks. Put on a pair of cozy socks before you get into bed. According to a Swiss study, warming your feet helps your body relax and puts you in the snooze zone.
  8. Silence symptoms. Some common symptoms, such as a cough and congestion, can make restful sleep a real challenge when you’re sick. Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate these uncomfortable obstacles to a good night’s sleep.
  9. Elevate your head. When you’re sick, sleep with your head elevated. Prop yourself up with a few extra pillows or the plump cushions from your sofa. Sleeping elevated helps ease sinus pressure and makes breathing less difficult.
  10. Quiet your mind. Even when you’re exhausted and not feeling well, sometimes you can have a mental block that prevents you from falling asleep. To get into the right frame of mind, try one of these calming pursuits: meditate, jot your thoughts into a journal, listen to soothing music or read your favorite book.

Kids Will Get Sick: 5 Facts a Pediatrician Wants You to Know

girl_high_fever_mom_checking_tempThe warnings you were given as a child about not going out with your hair wet or you’d catch pneumonia, don’t sit too close to the television or you’ll damage your eyesight – it’s probably safe to say what they lacked in accuracy they made up for in good intentions. But as we enter into the time of year when colds and other infections seem to thrive, it seemed like a good opportunity to set the record straight, debunk some of the myths and provide you with some useful information to get you through the worst of it…just in case you or someone else in your family starts to feel sick…

Fallacies vs Realities:

  1. Being out in the cold or wet weather can lead to a “cold” in a child. A “cold” or an upper respiratory infection is almost always due to a viral infection which, aside from certain colds being more prominent during certain seasons, is unrelated to the outdoor temperature. A cold happens when a viral agent attaches to the inside of the mouth nose or eyes. The viral particles enter the very specialized cells in these areas and replicate in to more of the same particles and even fever which then can invade further causing the associated symptoms. The same is true for the fear of “catching pneumonia” when one gets cold and/or wet.
  2. When the mucus in one’s nose green it automatically signifies the onset of sinus infection or contagious disease. A sinus infection is not contagious for the same reason that it occurs. Inflammation or possibly bacteria works its way into the sinus cavities, set up shop and cause the symptoms of the resulting pain and sometimes swelling. The reason, as with ear infections, that these are not contagious is that both of these occur in fairly small closed spaces and the inner contents cannot get out; concurrently antibiotics have a difficult time getting in, so it usually takes c little longer to cure these infections. For a frame of reference, consider the rapid “cure” that occurs when one contracts strep throat, an easily accessible area, after antibiotics are used.
  3. Once the fever is down after the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen during an illness, that illness is over and the concentration should be placed on “breaking” the fever. In fact each illness has its own symptoms, including how high the fever goes or how long it lasts. Some fevers do come and go within the same illness and the use of medications to” cure” the fever and hence the illness is fallacious. Certainly one will want to give their child some relief from the symptoms and these medications are good for that reason.
  4. A child who has a “high” fever will get brain damage. In fact, fever itself is merely a symptom of an illness such as other symptoms; runny nose, cough, headache, etc. While high fever itself is seldom ever responsible for brain damage some very rare but very significant illnesses for which the fever may be an accompanying symptom may result in brain damage: e., meningitis, encephalitis and others. But to be complete, and fair to all parents worrying about their child with fever, fever by itself is not the only symptom one sees with such serious illnesses. If there is a very high fever, contact with your Doctor will help sort through the causes.
  5. High fever will cause seizures in my child. There is a small population of children who will, in fact, develop a mild, non-harmful seizure during the initial rise in that fever. Although these seizures are not harmful to your child, it is important to know if there might be another reason for such seizures, and your child should be seen by a physician immediately- usually an Emergency room Doctor. Also a little known fact is that the seizure will only seldom repeat itself during the same illness. Again the parents will want to use a medicine for fever because of the discomfort your child will have and the fact that another seizure is possible.

These are just a few; more to come down the road…

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