When December rolls around each year, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw and the providers at Eugene Pediatric Associates can count on one thing: lots of sick kids.

“Often, children get sick at school and then bring home the bugs to their families. That’s especially worrisome if you have a young baby in your house,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

Illnesses currently circulating in the community include:

  • Influenza: a contagious yet vaccine-preventable respiratory virus that may cause fever, chills, sore throat, stuffy and runny nose.
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): a highly contagious virus that infects the respiratory tract in infants and young children.
  • Croup: an infection of the upper airway that obstructs breathing and causes a characteristic barking cough.
  • A severe stomach virus.
  • Strep throat: a contagious infection that requires a test for diagnosis and antibiotics to remedy. If untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body, such as the ears, heart, joints and kidneys.

Reducing the spread of germs

Dr. Bradshaw encourages parents to vaccinate themselves and their children against influenza and to take additional steps to prevent the spread of germs.

She says, “When you pick your kids up at school, have hand sanitizer ready and immediately have them apply it before they eat a snack in the car,” she says. “Once you arrive home, have your children change their clothes and wash their faces, because little particles of germs are on their skin and clothing.”

Make regular handwashing a priority for the entire family. Teach your kids to cough into the crook of their elbow instead of their hands. And, if you have a newborn or infant, don’t hesitate to ask friends and family to wash their hands before holding or touching your baby.

“Encourage your other children to avoid kissing the baby on the face. They can kiss him or her on the top of the head, on the feet, on the tummy, but try to avoid the facial area where so many germs can get into the body.”

Your best defense against illness is to keep your immune system strong. Taking a daily multivitamin, getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy diet all play an important role.

For additional protection, regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces, like doorknobs and countertops—a simple solution of no more than one cup bleach to 1 gallon water has been shown to be quite effective in killing surface germs. Check out this cleaning guide to help you keep household germs at bay.