In the late 19th century Sir William Osler, one of the founding doctors of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, said that colds should be treated with contempt. It’s not known if Dr. Osler was suffering from a cold at the time, but this fact is known – we all get them from time to time and some kids get more than their share. It is nearly impossible for your child to avoid catching a cold. Adults average 2 to 3 colds per year and children 6 to 10, depending on their age and exposure. Youngsters are particularly susceptible to colds because of their close contact with other children, they have yet to learn good personal hygiene, such as hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes, and they constantly have their hands in their mouth and nose.
Yet, there are some things that can be done to reduce the frequency of colds in children (and adults, as well). First, parents should get to know their enemy, how we are infected, and if we can discover any weaknesses in our opponent. Second, parents should do all they can to keep their child’s immune system strong.
The enemy is one of over 100 different viruses, with strange sounding names like rhinovirus and adenovirus. The viruses first contaminate the hands of a child or adult with a cold as a result of nose blowing, covering sneezes, and touching the nose. The virus also contaminates objects (particularly toys) and surfaces in the environment of the cold sufferer. Casual contact transfers the virus to the hands of a non-infected child or adult, who then infects his or her self by touching their nose or rubbing their eyes (virus deposited in the eye promptly goes down the tear duct into the nose). Touching contaminated toys and surfaces, where they can survive up to three hours, can also pick up the virus. Less often, an adult or child can be infected when they breathe virus-containing droplets that were recently expelled in coughs and sneezes by an infected person (did you know that airborne droplets can travel up to 25 feet?).
Once infected, it takes only 8-12 hours for the viruses to begin multiplying and another 10-12 hours for cold symptoms to begin. Therefore, the only defense against the virus is to prevent this uninvited guest from entering the body in the first place.
Teach Your Kids to Wash Their Hands. 80% of all infectious disease could be eliminated by more frequent and proper hand washing with soap and water. This is the first line of defense against colds. It takes lots of soap, hot water, and 15 seconds of scrubbing to do any good. Remind your kids that they should never put their hands in their eyes or to their nose without washing them first.
Encourage your kids to use tissue instead cloth handkerchiefs Handkerchiefs catch and retain the viruses. Encourage your youngster to use paper facial tissue instead, and then throw them away immediately after each use. And remember to remind them to wash your hands after blowing your nose. Infectious disease specialists encourage parents to tell their kids to “blow, throw and wash” theory. After they blow their nose, be sure that they throw the tissue away…don’t carry it aroundâ€¦ and then, wash your hands.
Reduce your child’s social life. If you know that there is a high incidence of colds in your community, try to keep your child’s contact with other children to a minimum. Limit your youngster’s time they spend with infected kids.
Get some fresh air During the cold season, kids tend to stay indoors and the germs spread faster this way. By opening windows and doors for a few minutes, and allowing air to circulate, you can push out airborne viruses. Viruses love stagnant air.
Help keep your child’s nasal passages clear Artificial heating tends to be very drying, so consider using a humidifier in the home to keep their air moist enough so as not to dry out the mucus membranes of the nose. Likewise, an air filter in an indoor environment, especially a HEPA type filter, can help remove airborne dust and germs.
Get Plenty of Sleep Our moms were right on when they encouraged us to get enough sleep. Although researchers have not directly proven that sleep deprivation causes more colds, some studies have sleep loss of three to four hours can cause a 50 percent decline in immune response.
When possible avoid closed-in spaces. Airplanes are virus-breading grounds. Cold viruses can’t escape these poorly ventilated areas. In addition, these areas are notorious for providing low humidity. This dries our mucous membranes that normally trap and dispose of viral invaders. A closed in space is just one more opportunity for the virus to spread to your child.