5 Bad Habits That Cause Kids' Colds

“Don’t get your feet wet or you’ll catch a cold!”

An old wives’ tale? A myth? Actually, it may be true: One study from the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff University in the U.K. a few years ago reported that “acute cooling of the feet” helped bring on cold symptoms in about 10 percent of healthy subjects. Why? One possible explanation: When your feet get cold, your blood vessels constrict throughout your body, including those in your upper airways, and that lowers your defenses against respiratory germs.

Here are some more bad habits that can lead to kids' cold and flu, and how you can protect them:

  1. Not washing hands. Getting your kids (and adults) to wash their hands frequently is one of the best ways to prevent colds and flu. Do so before eating or preparing food, before touching a baby, after coughing or sneezing, after using the bathroom, after playing with pets, after being around a sick person and whenever hands are dirty. However, a quick splash of water won’t do the trick. The right way -- scrub with soap for 20 seconds or so (about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”), including underneath fingernails and behind wrists, before rinsing and drying. When a sink isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  2. Not getting vaccinated. There’s no vaccine against the common cold, but most children ages 6 months and older should get a every year.

  3. Coughing and sneezing uncovered. Teach your kids to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue whenever they cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue into the garbage. What if a tissue isn’t handy? They can sneeze or cough into their bent arm, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Don’t get too close to adults or children (including friends) who are coughing or sneezing. When your kids who have the cold or flu, keep them home.

  4. Being picky. To limit the spread of germs, ask your kids avoid biting their nails and touching or picking at their eyes, nose and mouth.

  5. Sharing personal items. Make sure the kids don’t swap tissues, or share utensils, beverage containers, toothbrushes, towels and other personal items, especially during flu season.

Of course, eating right and exercising are the foundation of good health and may strengthen the immune system. Colds and flu are among the most common illnesses, so your children may still get sick even if they get a gold star for practicing all five of these good habits. If so, here are some links to tips to help your baby and kids feel better.

Reviewed by Timothy Yarboro, M.D.

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