Staying Healthy

Hand washing

One of the most important ways to stay germ-free is to keep hands clean. Teach your child good hand washing technique, including using warm water and soap and lathering up all hand surfaces (between fingers and under rings too!) for at least 15-20 seconds (approximately the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”). In fact you can sing something along the lines of:

“I’m washing my hands, I’m washing my hands. I’m washing my hands. Now they’re nice and clean.”

Kids should wash their hands before they touch food, after they use the bathroom, play outdoors, blow their nose, and more frequently when they have a cold or cough. Be a good role model — wash your own hands at these times too as well as after you change a diaper or help with toileting, after cleaning a pet cage or litter box, before and after handling food, gardening, and so on.

There are plenty of instructional visuals available, such as the many downloadable illustrated posters on the internet or a YouTube video such as Crawford the Cat: Handwashing for Kids.

Doctors recommend soap and water over hand sanitizers like Purell. If hands are visibly dirty, or if there is dirt under the fingernails, instant hand sanitizers will be ineffective. Note also that with these sanitizers, you must rub all hand surfaces until it evaporates. Just pouring on a puddle and rubbing hands together once or twice does not work. Note also that most contain 60-90% alcohol and must be kept out of reach of children and pets at all times — and they should never be used with children who bite their nails or suck their thumbs. Avoid all products containing triclosan.

Boosting the immune system

Make sure your child is getting all of the nutrients his or her body needs to stay strong. Supplement with high-quality vitamins, and consult with your pediatrician or a nutritionist about ways to boost your child’s immune system naturally.

Staying home when sick

If your child might be ill — sniffly, sneezing, coughing, or has a fever or other obvious sign of illness, do not send him to school or daycare and encourage the same in other parents. If your child might be sick, cancel the session with your child’s therapist. Even if he might enjoy the session, the therapist and the other children on her caseload will appreciate it!

Dealing with vaccines

Consult with your pediatrician about which vaccines are absolutely necessary for your child. Ask the pediatrician for a titer test to see if your child has already developed immunity and does not require a booster. If you take your child to the pediatrician because he is sick, do NOT allow him to be vaccinated at that time because it is convenient. Wait until your child is feeling great and his immune system is strong again before vaccinating.