Sneezing, body aches, fever, nausea, chills- the flu is no laughing matter, and no fun for your kids, or you to deal with. With the flu season starting in October and often peaking in February and March, it can be a challenge keeping kids healthy during the cold weather months. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent the spread of germs and help your child avoid getting sick this flu season.

Always Wash Your Hands

It may seem trivial, but proper hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses. Many children, and even some adults, do not wash their hands properly. Some don’t even wash them at all. Teaching children from a young age how to properly wash their hands with warm, soapy water is the first defense against germs. Make sure they are washing long enough by advising them to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while scrubbing their fingers and nails.

Provide Hand Washing Alternatives

Soap and water isn’t always available to children at school- especially if they are on a field trip or playing outside during recess. If the school allows it, place a small bottle of hand sanitizer in their backpack or lunch box for those times when they don’t have access to a sink.

Steer Clear of Sick Children

Socializing is an important part of the school day, but it’s also the easiest way to spread germs. Advise your child to be aware of other kids that are coughing and sneezing. If your child must go to school when they are sick, tell them to cough and sneeze into a tissue or the crook of their elbow to avoid spreading germs to others. Keep your child home if they have a fever of 100.5 or greater, or if they are vomiting. They can return to school after they are vomit and fever-free for 24 hours.

Consider the Flu Shot

Vaccines are one of the most important scientific developments over the last century. The flu vaccine has been proven to be effective against the flu, and the more people that get the vaccine the less likely the disease will spread. Herd immunity, a term often used when referring to other childhood vaccines like MMR and DTAP, is the best way to avoid an outbreak of the flu.

While we can’t escape germs and illnesses fully, taking precautions, especially with your children, is a sure way to best avoid the flu or any other illnesses that are floating around this season.