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What Puts You at Risk for the Common Cold?

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Young Kids' Risk of Colds

Young kids fight a host of ongoing viruses and bacteria as their immune systems continue to mature and strengthen. If your toddler or preschooler seems to have one cold after another, you are not alone. Most preschoolers get five to seven -- or more -- colds each year.

Also, many young kids have numerous ear infections, especially if they have siblings or are around other children in day care. While the struggling immune system produces antibodies to fight these new viruses and infections, the young child is more susceptible to illness.

The most successful way of spreading a cold is transferring mucus secretions to the fingers and hands and then to the mouth or nose of another person. While mouthing toys or other objects is a young child's way of exploring the world, parents must watch out for any items that might harbor bacteria. Here are some tips to reduce your young child's risk of colds:

  • Wash toys with soap and water and then allow them to air-dry. Many plastic toys are also dishwasher safe and can be washed that way.
  • Wash pacifiers with soap and water frequently.
  • Wipe young kids' hands with a clean washcloth and warm water often. Babies love to put their hands in their mouth.
  • Wash young kids' hands before and after eating and after playtime.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, rhinoviruses, the most common type of cold virus, can live up to three hours on the skin and survive up to three hours on objects such as telephones and stair railings. Cleaning environmental surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant might help prevent spread of cold viruses. Many cleaning products may be effective for this purpose.

Also, make sure that your child’s immunizations are current and that he or she gets an annual flu shot from the age of 6 months and older.

Day Care and Colds

Kids who stay in day care facilities have a greater risk for catching colds. Parents can take extra care to help their kids stay healthy. Here are some tips:

  • Teach your child the importance of washing his or her hands thoroughly. Hand washing is an essential and highly effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Hands should be wet with water and plain soap and rubbed together -- a very important step -- for 20 to 30 seconds. One way to make sure this happens is to sing "Happy Birthday to You" twice while washing. That will allow ample time to get rid of germs. Then hands should be rinsed and dried with a clean towel that should be discarded in the hamper after each use.
  • Remind children to wash their hands before and after eating and after going to the bathroom.
  • Use hand sanitizers or hand wipes that are alcohol-based if soap and water are not available. Alcohol helps kill germs.
  • Encourage your child to avoid sharing items such as cups, glasses, and utensils with others.
  • Keep your child at home when he is ill, and make sure the day-care center's policy is for all parents to do the same. Otherwise, your entire family will be constantly exposed to colds and other infections.
  • Make sure your child gets adequate sleep, a varied and nutritious diet, and plenty of time to play outdoors.
  • Replace your child's toothbrush regularly, and keep family toothbrushes separate, particularly when someone in the family gets sick.

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