January is infection prevention month in the RiverBend Pediatric Department, a time to spotlight ways to minimize the risk of you or your child getting an infection. The best way to do this is to focus on four things: healthy eating, regular sleep habits, immunizations, and infection control measures in your home.
Healthy eating and regular sleep give your body the energy to fight off infection. As a parent, it is important to offer meals and snacks containing plenty of proteins, vitamins and minerals that will provide this energy boost. A nightly sleep routine also allows your child's immune system to effectively combat infections.
Immunizations for your child provide a memory in the immune system so when faced with a vaccine-preventable illness, your child's antibodies will increase to fight off the infection and keep your child healthy. Influenza vaccine is particularly important this time of year, when we tend to see the "flu" in Massachusetts.
Finally, decreasing exposure to potential illness can lessen the risk of infection.
- Washing hands when you arrive home, before a meal and after using the bathroom is one way of doing this - generally singing the "alphabet song" twice while soaping and rinsing hands is sufficient.
- Covering your mouth with your elbow when sneezing or coughing can stop potential germs from entering the air, where others could breathe them in.
- Keeping a febrile child home from daycare or school can make your child's classmates less likely to get sick too.
- Avoiding cigarette smoke is another way to keep your child healthy, since smoke particles easily will carry viral infections in the air to another person.
- And DO get outside - one reason that there is more respiratory disease in the winter months is that people tend to be cooped together inside, without much movement of the air/ventilation, which makes it more easy for infection to spread from one person to another.
Please ask your provider about any concerns you may have, and for other tips to help prevent your family from frequent infections.