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Six strategies to keep kids from sharing germs

Bookmark and Share We teach our kids to share, but when it comes to colds - kids can keep their coughs and sneezes all to themselves.

Despite a parent's best efforts, most children will have six to 10 colds a year. And, they'll most likely catch their colds from other children, especially older siblings. While this sibling cross-contamination can be exasperating for parents, catching a cold is not always a bad thing.

"Whether children come in contact with viruses from an older sibling, at daycare or kindergarten - they will be exposed to viral infections," says Eric Glasofer, MD, Virtua allergist and immunologist. "It's part of growing up."

As long as your child is otherwise healthy, exposure to common viruses and bacteria helps build the immune system. When the body fights an infection, it produces antibodies that make it less susceptible to illnesses. But, you can keep colds at a minimum this season by following these tips:

Wash hands
Hand washing is the best way to reduce the spread of viruses. Wash your hands often and teach children to wash their hands properly especially before meals and after school.

Cover your mouth
When you feel a sneeze or cough coming on, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or show children how to use the inside of their elbow instead of their hands.

Don't touch your face
Cold and flu viruses enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth. Encourage children to keep their hands away from their faces as well as other peoples' faces.

Wash towels
Change hand towels often or have separate towels for each family member. When your child is sick, use paper towels to prevent the spread of viruses.

Disinfect surfaces
When a family member is sick, clean household surfaces and wash commonly used items especially toys. Viruses can live on surfaces for hours.

Proceed with caution
Colds and viruses may be an inevitable part of childhood, but they should not be ignored. Consult with the pediatrician about your child's symptoms and appropriate treatment. Be sure to keep your doctor informed if symptoms change.

"Children under age 6 are more likely to develop wheezing when they have a cold," according to Dr. Glasofer. "Young children have smaller airways which can become obstructed by inflammation or mucus." Call the doctor if your child starts wheezing, has difficulty breathing or begins breathing rapidly.

Avoid exposing newborns to sick family members. An illness such as RSV is common in children and adults, but can be very dangerous to infants. RSV is highly contagious. Symptoms are similar to a bad cold and may include wheezing.