Teaching Kids to Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Flu season is upon us! Young children are particularly susceptible to this annual peak in influenza, which sends an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 to the hospital because of flu-related complications.

One of the best ways to prevent kids from getting sick is to teach them how to practice good hygiene at home and at school, where the virus can easily spread among students. Read on for some ways you can help your kids stay healthy through winter and beyond!

A fun (and sparkly) way to teach kids how germs spread

It can be hard for children to understand how an invisible virus can transfer from person to person and make them sick. To help them visualize this concept, mix some hand sanitizer with glitter and rub some on your hands. Explain that the glitter on your hand represents germs that can make you sick. Then, high-five or shake your child’s hand and have them observe how the glitter has transferred to their hand. After that, demonstrate how germs can transfer to surfaces by touching and picking up things around the house, such as pencils, doorknobs, chairs, and more. You can also use household items to show your child how germs spread through coughs and sneezes—learn more here.

Encourage good clean fun

Teach your kids about good hygiene, and make it fun for them to put it into practice! Talk to your kids about the importance of washing their hands often, especially before eating and after using the restroom. Then, wash your hands together so your child can see how to properly use soap and water—a good way to teach them how long to wash is to have them sing the “Happy Birthday” song. Kids’ soap in fun colors and shapes can also motivate them to wash frequently.

Make shots less painful for kids

Most kids—and some adults too!—aren’t a fan of getting shots, but there are ways to make the trip to the doctor less painful if you decide to have your child vaccinated against the flu. Distracting your child with a game or activity (perhaps the IXL tablet app!) helps, and anxious kids can benefit from sitting on your lap or having the doctor apply a topical anesthetic to lessen pain. It’s also a good idea to talk to children in advance of the shot if they are nervous about it—don’t lie and tell them that it won’t hurt at all, but be realistic and say that you will help them get through it. The New York Times has more tips here.