For working parents, there is nothing quite as demoralising as a child coming home from daycare with a runny nose and a fever. For most parents, daycare is an inevitable part of working life, but the added stress of a small child getting sick repeatedly is not something they want or need.
Childcare experts say that it’s normal for toddlers to get sick quite often when they start daycare, contracting six to 12 viruses in the first year alone.
This is because daycare and schools are ideal environments for the spread of viruses. Illnesses such as the common cold, stomach bugs and hand, foot and mouth disease are easily spread through direct and indirect contact with kids who are coughing, sneezing, rubbing their snotty noses, and sharing toys and food.
The good news is that catching colds frequently isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it helps to build up a child’s immune system, unless he or she has a specific immune deficiency.
The first few months of attending a new daycare centre are usually the hardest because your child is exposed to a large number of germs all at once. Children have immature immune systems, but after they develop more fully, catching colds usually happens with less frequency.
As long as your toddler is just developing these typical viruses, and not more serious bacterial infections like meningitis, there’s no reason to be worried about their immune health—though having a sick kid all the time is likely to cause you some headaches.
But how do you get a handle on your household’s health when daycare is non-negotiable, and everyone is always busy? There are a few easy hacks to help families with young children get a grip on their runny noses.
- Food and exercise
Strengthen your child’s immunity by making sure they get plenty of sleep and physical activity and are eating a balanced diet. School-aged children require around 11 hours of sleep every night, whereas pre-schoolers require around 13 hours. Studies have shown that children’s sleep recharges them cognitively and physically. Sleep aids in development, cardiovascular health, weight management, infection prevention, increased attention spans, and learning. Children should also be encouraged to run and play outdoors in the fresh air as much as possible. Limit screen time by rather playing board games with your youngsters. Supplement your child’s diet with fruit rich in vitamin C (oranges, tomatoes, green peppers) and an age-appropriate multi-vitamin.
- It’s the air we breathe
Bianca Leonard, marketing manager of air treatment specialist Solenco, says that while clean air is crucial for people of all ages, children are particularly vulnerable to pollution and the general quality of the air we breathe. Ultrafine particles (or PM 2.5) are the most toxic pollutants in the air, primarily released through sources like vehicle engines, fireplaces and coal or natural gas-fired power plants. These easily inhaled particles pose the greatest health and can penetrate deep into the lungs.
“Taking simple steps such as purchasing an air purifier and installing it in your child’s room can drastically decrease or remove pollutants and irritants that may move into your child’s lungs,” says Leonard.
“Humidifiers will help sick children recover quicker as the moist air will soothe dryness and sore tissues at the back of the throat, relieving a dry cough and loosening the build-up of mucus.”
“A dehumidifier is great for homes with excess moisture in the air, where balancing humidity levels will go a long way in limiting the spread of allergens and harmful particles caused by mites and mould that thrive in moisture,” says Leonard.
- Wash your hands
The COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone hyper-aware that germs love our hands. It’s been said before but we’ll say it again: the handwashing techniques we all learnt during the pandemic are equally important for your child. Keep reinforcing that. Also, teaching kids to ‘dab’, or sneeze into their elbow, is a good one to start with. Alcohol-based hand sanitiser can also fill in when they’re at the park or at the mall when a sink is not available.