By: Dr. April L. Hartman
As the weather turns colder and your family and friends get together around the holidays, it can be tough to keep everyone healthy — especially your kids. It may seem like there’s always someone in the house with a cold or other illness, which often spreads to others in the household.
To help parents support their family’s well-being during the fall and winter months, Dr. April L. Hartman shares her thoughts and advice on how to keep kids healthy this season. Dr. Hartman, who is a board-certified pediatrician and has been in practice for over 20 years, says, “Staying healthy starts with a few simple habits that can make a big difference.”
Here are her top tips for keeping your kids healthier.
1. Wash hands frequently
Handwashing with warm water and soap is one of the best ways to help keep kids and adults from getting sick — and spreading infections or viruses to others. Model good handwashing practices as a regular routine, especially after using the bathroom and before meals or snacks.
Ask children to wash their hands when they get home from school and after playdates or other social activities. Let kids choose a short song they like singing (like Happy Birthday or the ABC song) so they’ll spend enough time washing their hands as they sing.
2. Keep current on vaccines
Ask your pediatrician if your children are up to date on their childhood vaccines and make appointments for them to get yearly shots. Adults in the household can also help keep kids and elderly loved ones healthier by speaking with a doctor about recommended vaccines.
3. Eat healthy foods and hug often
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins and whole grains can help your kids get the nutrition they need for their growing bodies. Fruits and/or veggies make great afterschool snacks. Try including healthy ingredients in a food they already enjoy — like adding cut-up zucchini to spaghetti or grated carrots in meatloaf.
Know what else can boost your immune system? A hug! Studies have shown that hugging can also boost your immune system, and protect against depression and stress, so take the time for your family to hug each other at the start of every day.
4. Have fun with movement
With all of today’s digital distractions, it can be hard to keep kids active — especially when it’s colder outdoors. Take time as a family to bundle up and get outside for a nature walk, scavenger hunt, or bike ride. Or just put on fun, upbeat music and have a dance party in your living room! Any kind of physical exercise is good for your whole family’s health.
Kids are naturally full of energy. If they’re getting into mischief or complaining of boredom, try encouraging them to exercise. Going up and down the stairs 10 times or doing 50 jumping jacks can get you some quiet time faster than a warning for a time out.
5. Keep your health care coverage up to date
To ensure that you can get medical care for your children when they need it, you’ll want to be sure your health care coverage is up to date. If your family is enrolled in Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids®, take action now by participating in eligibility checks for Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids® coverage. You can do this by making sure your contact information is up to date with the state’s benefits website, gateway.ga.gov.
If you get any emails or letters from the state with questions about your eligibility, be sure to respond in a timely manner to help avoid any gaps in coverage.
And if you’re no longer eligible for Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids®, the Georgia Department of Human Services may offer you other benefits that you are eligible for, like Pathways to Coverage, or refer you to Georgia Access to find health care coverage for yourself and your family.
You can learn more about your options for health care coverage at staycovered.ga.gov.
“Most parents will do anything for their children,” said Hartman. “Simple steps like giving your child a big hug each morning, eating healthy, getting exercise, and making sure your family has health insurance can help your family thrive.”
Take time today to help your family get and stay healthier this cold and flu season.