We’re almost there. Spring is about a month away (let’s hope – even after the most recent cold front produced one of the coldest Valentine’s Days in a century)! But believe it or not, we’re also in the peak of flu season, which runs from October through May in North America.
Here are 5 quick tips to keep you and your kids healthy throughout the remaining weeks of winter. They’re simple but if you do them, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of anyone getting sick.
- Get Enough Sleep. Sufficient sleep is an essential component of good health and disease prevention. A good night’s sleep makes everyone more productive and keeps our immune systems operating well. Younger kids should get 10 hours of sleep per night, which drops slightly (8.5-9.5 hours) for children aged 10-17.
- Eat Well. Healthy eating fuels our immune systems and plays a huge role in our long-term health. Encourage your family to eat brightly-colored fruits and vegetables – ideally 2 fruits and 3 vegetables per day during meals and snacks.
- Stay Active. Kids are supposed to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. During the week, they may accomplish part of this during school but make sure that they’re getting their full 60 minutes afterwards, and especially during holidays and weekends. Since February is National Heart Month, this is a great time to teach your kids how to measure their heart rates. Grab a stopwatch and have them count their heartbeats for 6 seconds, then multiply by 10. They can compare how their heart rates vary with different levels of activity (sitting, standing, hopping, dancing, and running).
- Watch Outdoor Temperatures. Many kids want to run outside at the first sign of fresh snow. Playing outdoors is great for them and can help them stay active during the day (not to mention, keep everyone sane on back-to-back snow days). Just remember to limit their time outdoors when it’s very cold, and especially when temperatures drop into the 20’s, or lower depending on the wind chill. Remember to keep them properly outfitted (layers of clothes, coats, gloves, etc.) and consult your doctor if you have any concerns about frostbite or hypothermia. For the latter, you should quickly take their temperature. Any temperature below 95 degrees is considered an emergency and should be treated immediately.
- Wash Hands. This is the single most effective way to prevent most winter illnesses (and throughout the whole year)! Any virus can be spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface and leaves behind secretions. Hand washing -- regularly and correctly -- can dramatically reduce much of the exposure. Print this easy step-by-step guide to properly washing hands for your kids. Tape it above the sink until it becomes their habit (and yours!). Key points include washing hands for at least 20 seconds (the length of 2 “Happy Birthdays”) and making sure to hit all parts of the hands and fingers.
Try to keep these 5 simple tips in mind to enjoy the remaining days of winter with your families!