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Categories > Children’s Health > Infectious diseases

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5 ways to keep your kids germ-free

» 1. Eat smart

» 2. Play hard

» 3. Sleep well

» 4. Don’t be late to vaccinate

» 5. Create a smoke-free environment

Get those shots!

Protect your child from needless illness by following the guidelines below from the 2007 U.S. Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule.* Children who miss vaccinations may require an alternate catch-up schedule. Talk to your doctor about keeping your children’s immunizations up to date.

AgeVaccine
BirthHepatitis B#1
1 monthHepatitis B#2
2 monthsDTaP#1, Hib#1, IPV#1, PCV#1, Rota#1
4 monthsDTaP#2, Hib#2, IPV#2, PCV#2, Rota#2
6 monthsDTaP#3, Hib#3, PCV#3, Rota#3
6–18 monthsHepatitis B#3, IPV#3, influenza
12–15 monthsHib#4, MMR#1, PCV#4, Varicella (chicken pox)#1
12–23 monthsHepatitis A (2 doses)
15–18 monthsDTaP#4
4–6 yearsDTaP#5, IPV#4, MMR#2, Varicella#2
11–12 yearsTdap, MCV4, HPV (3 doses for girls)

Avoiding all the bacteria, viruses and organisms that cause colds, stomach flu and other illnesses is impossible. Children, with their still-developing immune systems, are extra susceptible to passing bugs: The average preschooler suffers as many as 10 infections a year. Still, you can take steps to bolster your child’s resistance. Adopt these five healthy habits to keep your child out of the school nurse’s office:

1. Eat smart

Good nutrition that comes from a varied and well-balanced diet is one of the most important influences on your child’s health. If you breastfed, you already gave your child a terrific start. But it probably didn’t take long for that same child to begin making his or her own food choices. Most kids today consume far too much fat and sugar and not nearly enough calcium, fiber, fruits and vegetables.

To ensure your child eats healthy, the whole family needs to practice the following measures:

  • Schedule regular family meals and limit fast food.
  • Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Serve lean meats and other sources of protein such as poultry, fish, eggs and nuts. Grill, broil, roast or steam instead of deep frying.
  • Limit junk food such as chips, candy, cookies, sodas and fruit-flavored drinks.
  • Stock your home with healthy choices like fresh produce, yogurt, cheese, popcorn, pretzels, whole-grain bread and cereal, water and low-fat milk.

2. Play hard

Getting enough regular physical activity is essential. It strengthens the heart, lungs, muscles and bones; aids sleep; reduces stress and anxiety; improves mood; and helps keep weight in check. Some research suggests these benefits translate into improved resilience against illness-causing germs; others believe exercise directly affects the immune system. The bottom line: Everyone needs physical activity to stay healthy. Experts say kids should get at least 60 minutes of moderate activity every day. To get your child moving:

  • Limit TV watching, computer time and video-game playing to no more than two hours a day.
  • Provide opportunities for physical play—give toys like jump ropes and skates as presents and sign your child up for karate, gymnastics or team sports.
  • Ride bikes, hike or walk together as a family.

3. Sleep well

There’s more to getting enough sleep than staying awake during math class. Lack of proper sleep affects memory, physical performance and mood as well as the ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. Some experts believe sleep lets the body’s neurons shut down and repair themselves. Sleep needs may vary, but most kids require 10 to 13 hours a day. To help your child get enough rest:

  • Set a regular bedtime.
  • Establish a nightly routine and include winding-down rituals like taking a bath and reading stories.
  • Play soft, soothing music.

4. Don’t be late to vaccinate

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jointly advise immunizations to prevent rotavirus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, pneumonia, meningitis, blood infections, influenza and Haemophilus influenzae. However, as many as 37 percent of children under age 3 are not up to date with their vaccinations, placing themselves and others at risk, according to the American Medical Association.

Even if your child got all the “baby shots,” he or she still needs a round of boosters at about age 5 and again at age 11 or 12. In addition, talk to your pediatrician about yearly flu vaccines and other immunizations that may benefit your child.

5. Create a smoke-free environment

If you smoke or someone in your home smokes, your child is at risk for bronchitis, pneumonia, frequent colds, asthma, chronic coughs, ear infections, high blood pressure and learning and behavior problems. Using air filters or smoking in another room isn’t enough to protect your child. Quitting smoking not only improves the health of everyone around you but also sets a good example.


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