The Season Is Here – Keep Your Kids Healthy With These Tips

It’s the most wonderful time of the year as the holidays approach and kids are busy with lots of fun activities.

Unfortunately, all the crowds and special activities also bring with them a slew of illnesses that seem to spread like wildfire through our homes.

And perhaps nothing chills parents to the bone more than this dreaded sickness…

…the stomach “flu.”

We’ve all been there.  Our day is going as planned when our child suddenly – and violently – begins vomiting.  Everywhere.

We have to drop our plans, leave work, and spend the next 24 hours in a battle to clean up the mess, comfort our poor little one, and pray the entire family isn’t taken out.

The stomach flu isn’t a flu at all, but a virus in the digestive system.  It is often quick to start, and quick to end — and not serious, but it leaves everyone miserable in its wake.

So what do parents need to know during this season of illness to keep our kids comfortable – and keep our sanity?

Stomach viruses are very common in babies and young children as their immune systems continue to develop.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost every child will have a bout of digestive illness by age two, and it is most common in children under five.

Viruses that inflame the digestive system can include rotavirus, adenovirus, and norovirus.  They most often present with symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and fever 24 to 48 hours after exposure, and often last about the same length of time.

November is often the month these viruses start their evil takeover of our children’s schools, daycares, and our homes, and they are highly contagious.

Of course, prevention is key, but because they are so highly contagious, they may be impossible to avoid if our children are around others who are ill.

These viruses can live on toys, clothes, and other surfaces for days.  If that doesn’t scare every parent, nothing will.

Shopping carts, door handles, the steering wheel of the car – it’s everywhere.

So, first things first.  There are two vital tips to teach our kids as soon as they are old enough to understand.  Wash hands frequently and properly and don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth while playing or out in public.

This is, of course, easier said than done.  Even as adults, it is a habit to rub our tired eyes or scratch our nose, but this is what the virus is waiting for – a quick and easy path to wreak havoc.

Repetition is the key to learning, so remind your kids constantly to follow these rules.

They should be thoroughly washing their hands with soap and warm water many times throughout the day, especially after using the bathroom.

A good rule of thumb is to have them sing “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” two times while washing.  Wash in between fingers and under and around fingernails.

A word here about anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers:  Many parents are fond of these in the fall and winter months, but they are really not recommended.

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration issued new regulations about anti-bacterial products.  A dermatologist addressed the problem with these products in a piece appearing in the Miami Herald:

[Companies must] reformulate their products without 19 specific ingredients or pull them from store shelves.

This includes triclosan and triclocarbon, which have become the most used (and most scrutinized). Researchers have found these antimicrobials are no better at killing germs than regular soap, and they may actually pose risks, including the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the potential for them to enter the bloodstream and have detrimental effects within the body.

These products also severely strip the natural oils and moisture of the skin, which can cause irritation, itching, and dryness.  This is especially problematic if you or your child have eczema or another skin condition.

Most pediatricians and other doctors agree – regular hand soap is just as effective without the possible harmful side effects.

While bleach is often the most recommended product to clean surfaces during and after illness, it is completely unnecessary and not a healthy option especially around kids.

A simple vinegar based or homemade natural cleaner will do the trick! If the goal is to remove the germs from your home, why not do so without the harsh chemicals?

If you’ve done your best to instill these good hygiene habits in your children and they still wind up with a stomach virus, the only thing to do is to keep them hydrated and comfortable and let the virus take its course.

Clear fluids – and plenty of them – like broth, clear natural juices, and water are the best options.  Sometimes kids can’t even keep these down in the throes of vomiting, so you can try ice pops with real fruit juice (or even make your own).

So when should you call the doctor?

Watch for signs of fever and dehydration, especially in infants and toddlers.

Parents Magazine reports that most pediatricians want you to contact them if your infant under three months has a fever of 100.4 or higher, 101 for infants three to six months, and a temperature that reaches 103 for children older than six months.

Very dark urine or less than six wet diapers a day are a sign of dehydration in infants.  For older kids, going 8 hours or more without urinating should be reported to the doctor.

Remember, you know your child best.

If they seem extremely lethargic or unresponsive, vomit for more than two days, or have bloody diarrhea, they may need to be seen at the hospital to receive IV fluids and rule out a bacterial infection that may require intervention.

Mommy Underground wants to keep you and your family healthy during this “season of illness,” and we will keep you updated with tips and advice to survive this “wonderful” time of the year.

What are some of your tried-and-true tips for coping when stomach viruses invade your home?  Leave us your comments.

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