Here’s how to minimize your family’s chances of coming down with cold or flu.
Practice cold hygiene. “It’s important for parents to have good cold and flu hygiene because children follow their lead,” says Dr. Embree. “Teach your children early on to wash their hands thoroughly — for as long as it takes to sing the ABCs — often throughout the day.” Also, teach your child to cover his cough by tucking his face into his sleeve, and to wash his hands after he’s coughed or sneezed into them.
Call ahead. Worried about a germ-filled waiting room at the doctor’s office? Call ahead to ask for an estimated waiting time, suggests Dr. Embree, and then time your visit accordingly.
Build your base. “Having overall good nutrition will boost the immune system at any age,” says Dr. LoFromento. Serve foods rich in Vitamin C such as oranges, tomatoes and red peppers. Log a full night’s sleep.
Get the shot. Children who are older than six months can get a flu shot, says Dr. Embree. Infants younger than six months shouldn’t get the vaccination, because of maternal antibodies that have been transmitted from mom to baby during pregnancy and nursing. (Note: children under age 9 need a flu booster shot a month after the first.)
Ask for help. If you or your child is really knocked down by the flu, ask your doctor for products such as Tamiflu, a flu-shortening medication (in Canada, the product is on limited release until prime flu season, which is mid to late December). “For small, healthy individuals, it will shorten the course considerably if taken early on,” says Dr. Embree. Children under age one, and pregnant and nursing women should not take Tamiflu.