6 Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu

American kids come down with 6 to 10 colds per year—not a shocker considering how easily germs get passed around at school. Here's how to help prevent colds and flu.

child washing hands prevent cold flu

1. Get the flu shot for everyone. The flu shot doesn’t prevent colds, but it does offer immunity against the influenza virus, which can leave your child flattened for up to a week. Although the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective, if your child still comes down with the flu, chances are he’ll have a milder case.


2. Teach the right way to wash up. Children who wash their hands four times a day have 24 percent fewer sick days due to colds and 51 percent fewer sick days due to stomach bugs. To wash properly: Wet hands with warm, running water, apply soap, and rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds before rinsing and drying with a paper towel or hand dryer. In a pinch, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


3. Sharpen pencils at home, not school. The classroom pencil sharpener is one of the germiest places at school, according to a study done at the University of Arizona.


4. Pack a water bottle. Water fountains are another hotbed of germs, according to the University of Arizona research, so send kids to school with their own reusable H2O bottle instead.


5. Send in disinfecting wipes. Tell kids to wipe down their desks with a disinfectant wipe at least once daily—doing so actually reduces school absenteeism by 50 percent, according to the University of Arizona study.


6. Don’t smoke at home. Children exposed to secondhand smoke can have more colds and take longer to get over them, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.