As a parent, you take pride in being on top of things in the prevention department: you keep your kids’ vaccines up to date, you feed them a healthy diet and you make sure they get the right amount of sleep. But because children’s immune systems are growing, it’s only a matter of time before they get hit with the kind of infection that comes on strong and hangs on far longer than you’d like. Many childhood illnesses – including the common cold, bronchitis and sinusitis – come with a cough. A cough caused by a virus typically lasts two to three weeks and maybe longer; it’s considered chronic if it lingers for longer than eight weeks. In the event that the cough last more than a week, you should always consult a physician. Read on to learn more about how you can help your kids prevent their cough from spreading.
Cover that Cough!
It’s something you may find yourself telling your kids over and over again until their response to a cough is as automatic as the cough itself. Covering a cough is one of the best ways to prevent the millions of germs that come sailing out, from coming in contact with someone else. Teach your kids that there are two good methods they can use to cover their cough: cough into a tissue placed over their mouth and nose, or turn their head and cough into an elbow. Also let them know that it’s a good idea to turn their cough away from others whenever possible, and help them understand that using their hands to cover their cough will just help them spread germs to everything they touch. They should always try to wash their hands as often as possible.
Avoid Germ Hot Spots
Kids will be kids, which means getting them to keep their hands out of germ hot spots can be a real challenge. But every time they touch their eyes, nose and mouth, some of their germs get on their fingertips – and it’s amazing how many things an active kid can touch in a relatively short amount of time. If you have younger kids and you just can’t control where their hands go, do your best to keep up with germ control on the flip side. Use disinfectant wipes to go over commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, counters, tabletops and favorite toys. Don’t allow your kids to share cups or utensils when one of them is sick, and consider washing communal hand towels more often or using disposable paper towels.
Work on Hand Hygiene
Another way you can help your kids minimize the spread of cough-related germs is through frequent hand-washing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention likens hand-washing to a sort of "do-it-yourself" vaccine, saying it as one of the best ways to remove germs, prevent their spread and avoid getting sick. Kids should wash their hands after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing. The most effective way to wash hands is by wetting them and then giving them a thorough lathering with soap — the palms and backs of the hand, all ten fingers, in between and even under the nails. Teach kids to scrub for at least 20 seconds, or about the length of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice, before rinsing and drying. When your family is in the midst of the cold or flu, consider switching to paper towels rather than sharing a cloth towel to prevent the spread of germs.
Stay Home and Rest
When you have kids, there are days when it may seem like staying home and laying low is an impossible task. But that’s usually just what illness calls for. Although most parents wouldn’t want to keep their kids from school or scheduled activities for the duration of a cough, it’s important to keep them home if they have a fever, as that’s when they’re likely to be most contagious.
Making sure your kids get enough sleep at night is a less direct – but still important – way to help prevent the spread of illness. That’s because getting enough sleep boosts the recovery process, and once children are well, they’re no longer infectious. If your child’s cough keeps him or her up at night, an over-the-counter cough suppressant made for children, such as Delsym® Children’s 12 Hour Cough Relief, can help bring uninterrupted sleep. Follow dosing instructions exactly, and remember that OTC cough medicines should never be given to children younger than four.
Teaching kids to cover their cough, avoid germ hotspots and wash their hands properly can help them avoid spreading germs.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work & School
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cover Your Cough
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Handwashing — Clean Hands Save Lives
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: When & How to Wash Your Hands
- Kids Health: Coughing
- hand washing basics
- cough covering methods
- germ spread prevention
- chronic cough treatment
- common childhood illness