When you’ve got young children, winters can seem to be a never-ending round of snotty noses and hacking coughs. It’s very frustrating when they get one cold after another, but there are ways of helping them to avoid picking up the bugs. There are also things they can do themelves to prevent spreading their germs to others, helping to break the cycle of nonstop colds.
Wash those hands!
This is the most important thing they can do to avoid getting the virus that causes colds. It is often spread when they get the bugs on their hands and then touch their nose, eyes or mouth. Teach your kids the importance of frequently washing their hands, especially before eating. They need to use soap and water – just holding their hands under a tap doesn’t count – and rub their hands together for at least 30 seconds. Get them to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while they’re washing, to get an idea of how long they need to do it for.
Use a hand sanitiser
If getting to a sink to wash their hands is tricky, encourage them to use hand sanitiser. These are particularly useful if they are at a communal area, like a playground, where they are touching surfaces likely to have been sneezed over by lots of other children. When they use hand sanitiser, encourage them to rub it in until their hands are dry.
Give kissing a miss
If someone in the family has a cold, it is a good idea not to kiss them until they are better, as colds can be spread this way.
Cover up when they sneeze or cough
Cold germs are expelled into the air when someone sneezes or coughs. They can land on other people or on objects that are then touched by others, like door handles or banisters. Covering your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze is also good manners!
Stay at home when they are sick
Some kids are reluctant to stay home even if they’re sniffing and sneezing, and it can be tricky for parents if it means you have to take time off work. But keeping them away from others and resting will not only help them to recover more quickly, but it will prevent them from passing it on.
If your child has a constant stuffy nose, take them into the bathroom, run a hot shower until it produces plenty of steam, then get them to blow their nose as much as they can. The steam can help to loosen the mucus and clear their nose. Putting some chest rub in a bowl of hot water and getting them to inhale it while their head is covered by a towel can also be very effective.
When should you take your child to the doctor?
Colds are not usually dangerous, but signs they may have developed into something more serious include:
- A fever of more than 39°C
- A snotty nose that lasts more than 10 days
- Sore ears
- A dry cough that gets worse with exertion
- A sore neck
- Extreme listlessness