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January 10, 2018

Help your child to survive cold and flu season

Children's Health Flu
ER Medical Equipment for IBX CP Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

In my house, green now means stop. As in, if you bring your kids over to my house and they have green snot, I am going to stop you from entering my home. After endless weeks and multiple rounds of terrible colds, I have appointed myself the germ police. The bug stops here.

So far the count stands at: Killian two colds, Mama two colds and Daddy one cold. My husband and I can handle it. But knowing our sweet baby boy is not feeling well is the really tough part. I am sure many parents out there can relate. It’s already been one hell of a cold and flu season and it is only the second week in January.

For my family it started after Thanksgiving. After a good three weeks of relentless runny noses and general discomfort, my family enjoyed a brief reprieve over Christmas. But a couple of days later, Killian and I became sick again. Our colds progressed to the point where we found ourselves in urgent care on New Year’s Eve after my baby boy developed a nasty sounding cough. Thank goodness he was fine, just battling a long, terrible common cold. We have endured a total of five weeks of illness in my house since the end of November. Does wine kill germs? Cause I could really use a glass while I disinfect my house for the thousandth time.

I realize that exposure to germs and catching colds are part of life and actually an important part of Killian building up his immune system. But enough is enough. Now I am on a mission to keep us all healthy. Here are some tips that I am using with my son, myself and my family.


We all know how important handwashing is for both children and adults. Cleaning your hands with warm water and soap kills germs and helps stop the spread of illness. Washing a toddler’s hands can be a little interesting – they can’t reach the sink by themselves so you have to hold them or hoist them and some part of their clothes will most likely also get wet and soapy resulting in another fun mess for Mama to clean up.

But if you take the time to instill good hand washing habits when they are little, it will help keep your kids healthy now and lay the foundation for good hygiene as they grow. The Centers for Disease Control says that proper handwashing in children “can lessen the chances of illness and chronic inflammation—leading to better nutrition intake, more energy available for growth and development, and better attendance at school.”

If you have dirty hands to clean but no sink nearby, experts recommend that you use hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol. But we need to be really careful about hand sanitizer and little ones because of the risk of alcohol poisoning through ingestion. Kids can be enticed by those little bottles filled with brightly colored liquids. I like using the BabyGanics hand sanitizer for Killian and I because it is alcohol-free, plant-based and the manufacturer says it kills 99.9 percent of germs in 15 seconds. I also use baby wipes to give his hands a quick cleaning when we are on the go and then pay extra attention to scrubbing them when he’s in the bath tub. Don’t forget to keep those fingernails short and clean!


Our pediatrician told us that Killian’s bad cold did not spread to his ears or lungs because we were doing a great job at clearing the mucus out of his nose. Ever since his first cold in late November, I started using the NoseFrida Snotsucker to clear out Killian’s mucus at every diaper change and as necessary in between. This contraption may sound gross but it is an awesome, inexpensive and easy to use tool to clear out your little one’s snot. I did not fully understand how important mucus removal is to preventing a bad cold from turning into something worse like an ear infection or bronchitis until we saw our doctor. Now I’m even more in love with the Snotsucker than I was before.

For external cleaning I use washable burp cloths and I also picked up some Boogie Wipes, which are made with saline specifically for a little one’s nose. Keeping his nose (and face and hands) snot-free helps prevent it from spreading all over the house and to others. To help him from getting too stuffed up while he is sleeping, I am running a humidifier in his room with a few drops of eucalyptus oil mixed into the water.


While soothing my baby boy through his first fever and praying for his discomfort to end, my thoughts have frequently turned to the boy who brought his green snotty germs to my house in late December, resulting in our latest round of cold hell. I have fantasized about screaming at his mother. Why did she bring her obviously ill child to my house?! Instead, I am now vocalizing my boundaries: if your child is sick, please do not bring them over. I am actually saying that to people. I really thought that this went without saying, but sometimes common sense is not common.

I am not going to stop taking Killian to the library for story time or to music class where little ones and their germs run rampant. I am not going to put both of us in a bubble or hibernate for the rest of winter. But I am going to keep my house as germ-free and clean as possible. That means setting boundaries for who is welcome and spending extra time disinfecting during my usual cleaning routines.


There are some other simple, basic things that will also boost your children’s health and wellness during this cold and flu season. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that the flu vaccine should be given to everyone older than six months because it significantly reduces a child’s risk of severe influenza. There are people dying from influenza so let’s not get into a whole debate about it. Just vaccinate your children.

Kids should have a healthy, balanced diet with fruit, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein. Nurturing your children by giving them good food is an important part of being a parent. Ask your pediatrician if your little ones should be taking a multivitamin or supplement to help fill in any gaps in their nutrition. Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep. Toddlers like Killian should be getting 11 to 14 hours of sleep every night. Children who do not sleep enough at night are more likely to suffer from injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and depression. When a body is well-fed and rested, its immune system will be working at its best.

What should you do if your little one is sick? Call your pediatrician. They will let you know if your child should come in for a visit. But you know your son or daughter better than anyone else. If you are concerned, seek medical attention. If your child seems like they need immediate care, like Killian did on New Year’s Eve, head to the closest urgent care or emergency room.

Let’s all do our part to keep our little ones (and ourselves) healthy and stop the spread of germs as we can. Wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough. And please, for the love of God, do not bring your sick kids to my house.

Do you have any tips for cold and flu season? Share your stories and ideas in the comments, below and Tweet me at @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.

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