LUHS physician offers tips to help parents keep germs at bay

Most parents are all too familiar with the equation school + kids = sick days. With more than 200 cold viruses it's no wonder parents feel like they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to keeping their kids healthy.

"Kids will be exposed to germs and inevitably get colds, even with the best preventive measures, and that's OK," said Jessica McIntyre, MD, family physician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

According to McIntyre, young children will get about 7-8 colds a year and school-age children will average 5-6 colds a year. Kids tend to get more colds during the school year because they are in an enclosed classroom surrounded by other children who are sharing these very common viruses.

"Parents sometimes worry that they have done something wrong to cause frequent colds, or that their child is not healthy. Actually, cold viruses help build a child's immune system and are an unavoidable part of growing up," McIntyre said.

She does offer some tips to help keep illness to a minimum.

1.Your kids know their ABCs but what about their CCCs?
a.Clean - wash your hands and make sure your kids wash their hands frequently
b.Cover - cover your cough and sneeze, preferably with a tissue, but if one is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow
c.Contain - stay at home if you are sick; germs are one thing that aren't good to share

2.Family flu vaccines. Everyone who is 6 months or older should be vaccinated. Talk to your physician about which type of vaccine is right for your family members.

3.Have your children wash their hands as soon as they get home from school and consider having them change into "home clothes." This is especially beneficial if you have a young infant at home.

4.There is some evidence that certain complementary products can be effective in cold prevention if taken regularly.
a.Probiotics: 1 gram mixed with milk twice daily
b.Vitamin C: 1 gram daily
c.Zinc sulfate: 15 mg syrup or 10 mg tablet daily

"Being exposed to the germs that cause colds and diarrheal illness during childhood is very important in order to develop solid immunity against these viruses. Because kids normally develop this immunity early on, by the time they are teenagers they usually only experience about four colds per year," said McIntyre. "Viral illnesses are going to happen, just be prepared to offer lots of snuggles to help your children get through the inevitable colds."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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