Keeping your family infection- and virus-free in the cooler months can feel like an uphill battle. Atlanta Parent spoke to some local pediatricians about how to stay healthy for the rest of the year.

Practice healthy hygiene.

“Wash hands frequently,” says Dr. Hiral Lavania of One Family Pediatrics. “Colds are usually spread through the droplets and fluid of a contaminated person. Sneezing and coughing can get other people sick, and viruses stay on surfaces for up to 24 hours. If you touch those surfaces and then touch your mouth, eyes or nose, you can catch the virus.”

“I always advise patients to have a good hand-hygiene routine,” says Dr. Vandita Acharya of CentreSpringMD. “A general rule of thumb is to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. For younger children who may not be able to count, 20 seconds is roughly the amount of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice.”

COVID-19 and seasonal flu present similarly. “We’re seeing both flu and COVID in our practice. Both start with fever, body aches, cough, runny nose. There is no way to know without being tested,” Lavania says.

If you suspect you or one of your family members is sick, get tested and stay home to prevent the spread of illness. COVID-19 spreads more easily than flu. Compared with flu, COVID can cause more severe illness, and people may take longer to show symptoms and may be contagious for longer periods of time. With the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people stay home at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.

Lavania recommends wearing masks in crowded places. “Especially if you’re immunocompromised, but it can also decrease the risk of other infections. It offers protection against COVID, flu and other colds.”

These preventative actions can help stop the spread of germs:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you’re sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Don’t reuse tissues.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.

Stay safe at school.

Implementing healthy practices at home can help your child continue the routine at school. Remind your kids of the importance of washing their hands while they are at school.

“Make sure they’re not eating or drinking after other kids,” Lavania says. “Remind them to keep their distance from coughing and sneezing, and make sure they use tissues when coughing or sneezing. Tell your kids not to touch their face at all and try to practice that.”


Reduce your risk of seasonal flu by getting vaccinated. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every season. Ideally, you’d get your vaccine by the end of October. Everyone 6 months and older also can get an updated COVID-19 vaccine.

“With the flu vaccine, even on years where the vaccine doesn’t match the flu strain, vaccination decreases hospitalization by 60-65%. It also prevents the side effects of flu,” says Lavania. “You can still get COVID after being vaccinated, but it decreases the risk of hospitalization as well. There’s also a new COVID vaccine coming out, so be on the lookout.”

Visit your family doctor to ensure the family is up to date on wellness visits, and you can also use the visit to get your vaccinations.

Get outdoors.

Enjoy the autumn weather. Spending time outdoors can improve your mood and sense of wellbeing. Go on a hike to see the beautiful fall leaves and to get in some family exercise.

“People tend to forget how important it is to get outside. Sunlight helps the body produce Vitamin D, which is crucial for a healthy immune system,” says Acharya. “Regular light exposure has also been shown to improve mood and mental health, which are especially important in the winter months. Just remember to use a good mineral-based sunscreen for prolonged sun exposure.”

Eat healthy.

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, including plenty of Vitamin C-rich foods like oranges, broccoli and kale. Model healthy eating, so your kids are more likely to follow your example.

“One of the best ways to incorporate Vitamin C-rich foods is in a smoothie,” Acharya says. “Use lots of different fruits for variety. Good options are mangoes, pineapple, oranges, lemons and strawberries. These fruits are delicious, and kids usually love them. Offer a Vitamin C-rich smoothie as an afternoon snack a few times a week.”

Acharya recommends paying more attention to proper nutrition in the fall and winter months. “Garlic, ginger and turmeric are potent anti-inflammatories and antimicrobials, so incorporate them into your diet as much as you can. Swap out processed snacks for organic berries and citrus fruits, which are rich in polyphenols and Vitamin C and may help boost the immune system further.”

Ask your pediatrician about appropriate vitamins and supplements for your child.

“Different supplements have different acceptable age ranges, so it depends on your child and the supplement,” Acharya says. “Work closely with a functional healthcare provider when deciding what supplements are right for your child. Most supplements can be taken at all ages, but the dosing varies widely depending on age and weight. A good supplement routine also goes a long way in terms of strengthening the immune system and preventing sickness. The basics that I recommend everyone have in their supplement cabinet are a good probiotic, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and glutathione. However, each person is different, so speak to your healthcare provider about which supplements are right for you.”

Get adequate sleep.

Enforce a bedtime routine to make sure your kids are getting enough sleep.

“Sleep is fundamental to maintaining a healthy immune system in children,” says Dr. Taz Bhatia of CentreSpringMD. “This means 10-12 hours for elementary-aged children, 10 hours for middle schoolers and eight for high schoolers. I also limit spend-the-nights during cold and flu season, as kids tend to stay awake and can often get sick.”

To help your kids fall asleep easier, turn screens off an hour before bedtime and create a wind-down routine that doesn’t include screens.

Maintain hydration.

Dehydration can increase the risk of headaches, decrease the brain’s learning capabilities and cause lightheadedness or dizziness.

“Our bodies are made up mostly of water. If you stay dehydrated, your body is not at it’s optimum,” Lavania says. “Eating fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water boosts your body’s immune system. And when you’re sick, stay hydrated because fevers dehydrate you.”

Children ages 1-3 should have about four cups of water a day, ages 4-8 should have about five cups of water a day, and older children should have about 7-8 cups of water a day. For adults, the common recommendation is eight, but men should try to have 15 cups of water a day, while women should have about 11 cups a day. If you’re sick, try to maintain those numbers or even go a little bit above in order to replenish your fluids.

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