Winter is upon us and the it’s the season of sniffles.
If you’ve got a child in childcare, you’re facing a slew of “daycare bugs” that could drag the whole family down for months. Here’s how to maximise your own resistance as well as your child’s, and keep a balance so you can care for your family while keeping your employer happy.
1. Flu shots
They’re not just for elderly people, flu shots are for adults and children as well as pregnant women (who also qualify for a free shot). Every year the vaccine is updated to cover the most prevalent flu bugs around. Influenza is far more severe than a cold and can require hospitalisation.
2. Hand sanitiser
Making sure the whole family follows good hygiene and washes their hands regularly will protect you from some bugs. Keep hand sanitiser in the care and use it when picking up your child from daycare. Antiseptic wipes are also useful.
3. Hygiene habits
As well as teaching children about proper hand washing before meals and after using the bathroom, encourage them to cover their mouth before sneezing and coughing. Also teach them not to put things in their mouth.
4. Immune boost
A healthy diet with the proper nutrients is the best way to build a strong immune system, as well as getting enough sleep. You can also try remedies to prevent colds or speed healing such as:
- Probiotics: “good bacteria” found in natural yoghurt, kimchi and supplements can help outcompete bad bugs and improve your gut health
- Echinacea: scientific evidence is mixed on the effectiveness of Echinacea to prevent sickness and/or reduce its duration, but it’s generally safe to add to your anti-bug arsenal
- Ginseng: one Canadian study suggested this could be effective for reducing winter colds
- Multivitamins: deficiencies of certain minerals and vitamins are linked to reduced immune function. A chewable multivitamin could be a good idea, particularly if your kids are going through a picky eating phase.
- Garlic: a trickier one as it’s most effective raw. You’ll certainly ward other people off, if not bugs as well.
- Chicken soup: there are studies showing that home made chicken soup may be beneficial for upper respiratory tract infections
- Zinc: there’s substantial research showing that zinc lozenges can reduce the severity and duration of the common cold
- Green tea: drinking green tea or taking it in capsules possibly lowers influenza risk, and hot liquids generally can help relieve nasal congestion
5. Get some sun
Easier said than done if you’re in southern parts of Australia, but sunlight boosts Vitamin D which promotes normal immune function. If you can’t get any rays in the middle part of the day, when they’re most effective, consider a Vitamin D supplement.
Every time your child gets sick (which may be frequently) you’ll have to keep them home from daycare. Check your centre’s policy: some are more lenient than others about what sniffles and bugs are allowed.
Always have a back up childcare option such as a family member, or an emergency nanny service.
If your whole family gets sick at the same time and both parents are bedridden with flu, you’ll also need help.
Sick and carer’s leave also covers you for when your child is ill and you get 10 days each year as a full-time employee. You’re also entitled to two days unpaid carer’s leave. Some employers may let you take extra leave, or you can use holiday leave.
You may run out of leave, or find that taking it isn’t ideal as you get behind with work and have to catch up. See if your employer can be flexible with your hours, or enable working from home.
Ultimately if you have a kid in daycare, you’re probably going to come down with some colds and viruses this winter. Prepare for the worst, and try to stay rested and healthy so you have the best chance of beating bugs quickly.