It's natural for young children in school settings to share germs. Behaviors like wiping their noses on their hands, sharing toys, and climbing all over one another on the play ground are all ways that illnesses and viruses spread--and most preschoolers do all those things in a typical day. As a parent wanting to protect your child from serious illnesses like the flu, this can be scary. The following tips will help you keep your child (and the other children) safe while at school this winter.
Have your Child Get the Flu Shot
Flu shots are no fun for kids, but they help children develop natural immunity to potentially deadly viruses. Have your preschooler get the flu shot at the start of the cold and flu season. If your child has a fear of shots, look into having your child get the flu nasal spray. This option often has the same benefits as the flu shot, and no pain.
Practice Good Hygiene Habits
Many preschoolers don't have a natural instinct for cleanliness; it must be taught. Work with your child on personal hygiene as a part of daily routines. The following are good habits to have your child practice:
- Hand washing. Teaching a preschooler to wash his or her hands is easy, but teaching your preschooler to wash his or her hands for long enough can be difficult. The CDC recommends that hand washing last for 20 seconds at a time. To encourage your child to wash his or her hands for 20 seconds or more, teach your child to sing a song, like "Ba-Ba Black Sheep" or "Row Row Row Your Boat" while washing his or her hands.
- Mouth covering. Teach your child how to cough into his or her arm instead of his or her hand. To do this, show your child how it's done, then be sure to model the behavior yourself. Call attention to the fact that you're doing it, to ensure that your child takes note.
- Sneezing into a tissue. Have your child hold a tissue up to his or her mouth when it's time to sneeze. Your child may have a hard time recognizing when a sneeze is coming, so have your child practice the act of sneezing and covering up his or her mouth during the sneeze.
- Avoiding inappropriate sharing. Teach your child not to share cups, forks, spoons, food and other items that have already been in your child's mouth. If this is a problem for your child, hold pretend tea parties with your child and practice using your own food, forks, spoons and cups without anyone switching or sharing.
Follow Preschool Policies
Many preschools have specific policies in place to protect their students from illnesses like flu. For example, your child's preschool may require your child to stay home from school for a day after the disappearance of symptoms, or may require a doctor's note to return to school after a serious illness. While many parents may be tempted to send their child to school before the time allows, this can endanger children at the preschool and cause illness to spread.
For more information about how you can help your child avoid the flu this winter, get a list of specific policies your child's preschool has in place to protect children from the flu. Following preschool policies and teaching your child good hygiene habits can all help keep your child healthy this winter. Click here for more information on preschools in your area.