By Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, Northeast Pediatrics
We are in the midst of flu and cold season. How do we protect ourselves from getting sick all the time? With high attendance at daycare and preschool, we see more and more little kids with runny noses and cough. In the pediatric offices, we even have a name for it, “the daycare runny nose.”
There are a few simple rules to avoid contacting germs-for kids and adults. Get a flu shot at the beginning of flu season, not when there is already an outbreak. The flu vaccine takes up to 2 weeks to get a circulating immune response. Wash your hands a lot. Wash them after using the bathroom, before eating, after sneezing or coughing, and before preparing meals. Remember this is easy prevention and protection. Get into habit of hashing hands when coming home from malls, stores, movie theaters, and school. You may even want to give your little ones a bath after school to wash away all the germs! Do not share cups, spoons, forks, etc. Most people are actually contagious even before the symptoms are obvious, so precaution is the best remedy! Stay away from those who are obviously sick. Cold and flu viruses spread by respiratory particles in the air, so encourage your little ones to sneeze in the elbow or tissue, not into their hands. Teach your kids not to touch their face too often. Humans touch their faces 100s of times a day, and the entrance or viruses and bacteria are through your nose, mouth, and eyes.
In addition to prevention and avoidance of contact with the germ, you can fight viruses by keeping your immune system healthy. How do you do that? Get plenty of sleep. Toddler and preschoolers should get 10-12 hours of sleep a night, and school aged kids should get about 9 hours of sleep nightly. Eating healthy is also important – 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables will provide you with vitamins and mineral needed for a healthy immune system. Keeping hydrated and getting regular exercise also helps boost your immune system.
There are many investigational products that may help boost your immune system. There are so many products that claim to help your immune system, but there are no valid data behind them; so be careful when choosing a product. There definitely is a link to susceptibility to illnesses and vitamin deficiency, so multivitamins is always a good idea. There is no evidence of mega doses of vitamins helping. Some of the vitamins that are being studied due to some evidence of better immunity are Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, D, E, and zinc. All these vitamins have shown to help the immune system in one way or another but too much may be inhibitory. Aloe Vera, Echinacea, Ginseng, Garlic, and Probiotics are all being studied for their immune actions. Currently, researchers in Harvard are looking at the link between “good bacteria” (Probiotics) in the gut and healthy immunity. Even though there is evidence of immunity booster with the herbs, it still has no proven affect to help prevent infections such as common cold or the flu. Research is still ongoing. Therefore, be cautious when taking supplements and ask your doctor about interactions and if age appropriate for the pediatric patients.
Stay healthy by prevention and good habits!
Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, a Board Certified Pediatrician and active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, graduated from the University of Miami six year Honors Program in Medicine. If you have questions about this article or your child email Dr. Bhumi at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are accepting new patients – please call to get to know the doctor at 526-PEDS