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10 Ways to Help Your Toddler Be Germ Smart

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Cold's and flu can hit in force in any season, plus there have been a host of other strange and scary illnesses in the news lately. It's impossible to keep your toddler from coming into contact with germs, but there are some things you can do to help minimize the risk.

1. Keep Little Hands Clean

a toddler washing his hand

Soap and water are still the best line of defense against spreading germs. Get in the habit of having your toddler wash her hands after playing with anybody's toys. The sink should also be the first stop every time you get home from errands or play dates.

2. Use Hand Sanitizer

a toddler washing his hands in a sink

If you can't get to the sink, make sure your toddler uses some hand sanitizer. It won't kill all the germs, but it can decrease the amount of germs on your toddler's hands. For hand sanitizer to work it needs to contain at least 60% alcohol, so if your toddler still sucks on his fingers wait until you can use soap and water.

3. Don't Share Drinks

a little girl drinking from a sippy cup in a field

Help your child learn that drinks aren't for sharing. Mouths are a dirty place, and germs can easily transfer in saliva and mucus. Sharing a sippy cup or straw is never a good idea, so teach your child to only drink from her own cup.

4. Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away from Sick Playmates

a little boy playing in a playground

That kid on the slide has a barking cough and is in serious need of a tissue. If your mommy intuition is making you feel uncomfortable about exposing your child to whatever this potential playmate is carrying, listen to it. Don't feel bad about not letting your child play with somebody whose caregiver should have known better. There will be other days when everyone is feeling better, soon.

5. Teach Your Toddler to Use Tissues

a woman wiping her nose with a tissue

Every toddler has learned the secret of how perfectly a finger fits inside a nostril, but you have to do your best to teach them to use a tissue. Introducing germs via finger to nostril is a quick way to catch something, and a mucus-covered finger is an easy way to spread germs. Tissues are a simple barrier that can help keep everyone safe.

6. Wipe Down Restaurant Tables

a packed of antiseptic wipes

If you don't already have some antibacterial hand wipes in your diaper bag, you should try to remember to get some in there. Fast food and food court tables are lucky to get wiped down a couple times a day, while restaurant tables are often wiped down with just a damp rag. Use an antibacterial wipe or baby wipe to clean up the area in front of where your toddler will be eating—or better yet, carry a pack of disposable place mats.

7. Teach Your Toddler to "Chicken Wing" or "Vampire"

a woman wiping her nose on her shirt sleeve

Coughs or sneezes are the ultimate chance for germs to go rogue. It's not very interesting to remind your little one to cover their mouths, but having a catch phrase like, "Chicken wing!" or, "Vampire!" can make being germ-safe fun. Chickens and vampires are often seen covering their faces with their wings/arms, and covering your mouth with your arm is the best way to stop particulates from spreading through the air or by hand.

8. Wipe Down Shopping Carts

a row of shopping carts

One of the dirtiest things we come into frequent contact with is a shopping cart. Many stores offer antibacterial wipes by the front door, so give the handle and seating area a quick once over before putting your toddler in.

9. Eat a Balanced Diet

a toddler eating some food

The best way to ensure your toddler is getting all of the necessary nutrients for a healthy immune system is to feed them a balanced diet. Fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, whole grains—you know the drill. If you have a picky eater, model healthy eating and offer good choices whenever you can—they'll come around someday.

10. Get Vaccinated

a young toddler getting a vaccination from a doctor

For healthy children the best line of defense against many diseases is vaccination. In recent years it has become more popular to delay or refuse vaccination, so if you have any concerns please have a thorough discussion with a medical professional. The Center for Disease Control has a lot of information to help you learn about the importance of vaccination. Do your research and make the choice that best fits your family.

 
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