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Keeping Children Healthy During the Holidays

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The first week of December is ‘National Hand Washing Week.’

According to Skyler Kalady, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, cold weather months are prime time for children to get and share common contagious illnesses.

She said the first step that children and parents can take to help lessen their chance of getting sick during the school year starts at the sink.

“Children should wash their hands multiple times a day,” said Dr. Kalady. “Most importantly, this includes after they use the restroom, before and after eating, and after sneezing or blowing their nose.”  

She also recommends teaching young children to cough into their elbow instead of into their hands to help stop the spread of germs.

Dr. Kalady said the most common illnesses that plague children during the school year are viral, upper respiratory infections.

Symptoms will typically include a stuffy nose or congestion that progresses to a small cough, and sometimes it can produce a low-grade fever or sore throat. Upper respiratory infections are usually viral, so antibiotics won’t work against them. What will work, is plenty of rest and fluids.

On the other hand, strep throat usually starts with a fever and a sore throat, sometimes with belly pain and a rash, but Dr. Kalady said it doesn’t typically involve nasal congestion and cough.

Strep throat is treated with antibiotics, because it is a bacterial infection, and is diagnosed with a ‘strep test’ at the doctor’s office.

Dr. Kalady said gastrointestinal bugs are also common this time of year. These are usually transmitted by touching germs on a contaminated surface.

To keep these types of bugs from spreading, she said it’s key for children to wash their hands and for parents to keep children home from school when they are ill.

“If they’re vomiting, have diarrhea and a fever, that child isn’t going to benefit from learning and they will be an infectious risk to their peers,” said Dr. Kalady. “In general, anybody that has a fever should be home, until it has resolved for at least 24 hours.”  

Dr. Kalady also reminds parents to make sure their child receives their annual flu vaccine each fall as well as other scheduled vaccines to reduce vaccine preventable illnesses.

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