Staying healthy during cold season when you have two toddlers in daycare is a challenge. My twin daughters, Chloe and Claire, have caught just about everything — from stomach bugs to pink eye — and when one kid gets sick, her sister is soon to follow. Then it’s only a matter of time before my husband and I get sick too. This cold and flu season, we are determined to keep all four of us healthy. We implemented a few pediatrician-recommended tips, revamped our cleaning routine (hitting these often forgotten household surfaces), and boosted our immune systems. Here’s what we tried and what we learned.

The Pediatrician’s Best Tips

The Happiest Toddler on the Block cover image

(Photo via Happiest Baby)

As we embarked on our new healthy routine, I asked Dr. Harvey Karp — a well-known pediatrician and bestselling author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block — for his opinions on our cold-fighting strategies. His proven techniques and products have a huge celebrity following: Jessica Biel, Khloé Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher, and Zoe Saldana are just a few of the A-list fans who sing his praises. Here’s what he shared.

1. Get your flu shot early. While you still can catch the flu if you get a flu shot, Dr. Karp recommends that everyone in a family get their flu shot as soon as it becomes available. “Babies over six months in age, seniors, and all family members should get a flu shot every year. It can’t give you the flu. You might have a sore arm, but that’s it. The flu can really beat down your immune system,” says Dr. Karp. “If you live on a farm miles away from anyone, it’s not a big deal if you don’t get a flu shot. But you’re more exposed when you live in a congested area.” Since we live in Los Angeles, we took our twins to get their flu shots as soon as our pediatrician’s office had them available. My husband and I got ours from our primary care physicians. After hearing about friends and kids who have gotten the flu and didn’t get the shot, we decided to get the shot as early as we could.

Photo of Claire Hay pouring 8Greens drink

(Photo via Jennifer Chen)

2. Build a wellness routine with your kids. In the morning as they get dressed for daycare, Chloe and Claire love to apply Eden Gardens kid-safe essential oil on their chests. We use the Healthy Hero ($9) and Germ Ease ($9) roll-ons daily. A mom friend told me that she revamped her household routine from when she picks up her kids at daycare. Dr. Karp agrees that good hygiene habits can ward off pesky germs. With that in mind, as soon I pick up my twins, I give them hand sanitizer spray for all of us to wipe our hands. Once we’re home, they take off their dirty daycare clothes (including socks) and exchange them for new outfits. Often, they’ll pick out favorite clothes in the morning they want to wear later so it’s ready for them when we get home. Before eating dinner, we wash hands. At bedtime, Chloe and Claire snap on Dr. Tung’s Kid’s Toothbrush Sanitizer ($6) over their toothbrushes and say goodnight to the panda on the front of the cover.

3. Practice good hand-washing techniques. One of the best ways to prevent germs from entering your body is washing hands well. For little ones, it’s all about making sure they wash between their fingers, rub their palms together, and thoroughly scrub for at least 20 seconds. Dr. Karp recommends singing “Happy Birthday” or another short song to signal the length of time to wash. My toddlers and I sing “Happy Birthday” to different friends and stuffed animals, and even Elmo gets a shout-out. We use Honest Company’s Coastal Surf Foaming Hand Soap ($4), which I find to be more visible than other soaps for little hands, and they like the “big bubbles” it makes. If you’re in a situation with no soap or hand sanitizer available, Dr. Karp says that rubbing your hands on your pants can work in a pinch.

(Photo via 8Greens)

4. Remember that good food equals good health. When I asked Dr. Karp if immune-boosting drinks, extra vitamin C, or vitamins would help, he recommended relying on healthy foods instead of supplements as a way for kids to learn that good food provides nutrition and wellness. Our meals at home consist of a protein, a carbohydrate, fruits, and veggies. I like to offer a rainbow of colors so that they are eating a variety of nutrients. For example, dinner might be Trader Joe’s kale cashew pesto tossed with red lentil pasta, mango as the fruit, and beets on the side.

5. Sleep well. Getting a good night’s rest is what Dr. Karp prescribes as the best medicine for a healthy immune system — not just for littles, but for the entire family. While my twins are champion sleepers at night, afternoon naps can be hit or miss. If Chloe or Claire skips a nap, we fill the tub with California Baby’s Overtired & Cranky Bubble Bath ($14) along with some warm water and put them to bed half an hour early. If I’ve had a bad night of rest, I try to squeeze in a 20-minute nap during the day.

What We Tried

In addition to our cleaning habits with our daughters, we’ve started disinfecting doorknobs (and other frequently touched surfaces) weekly, as well as the girls’ car seats. We tested out two kid-friendly products, 8Greens (20 tablets for $28) and Lolleez (2 packs for $22), to see if they could offer some health benefits as well.

8Greens is a tablet you drop into a cup of water and sip once a day. I started a dinnertime routine of making a “special drink” for the whole family. I grab a clear measuring cup, fill it with water, then give my daughters each a tablet. They love to dunk them in and watch them fizz like a fun science experiment. We wait until it’s done bubbling, then we toast each other with our cups while saying, “Cheers!” I like that 8Greens has vitamin C, B12, and zinc in it, while also having a variety of greens. I’ve found that my girls will split one tablet’s worth of the “special drink.” They also love açaí bowls, so I’ve used the drink as the liquid base when blending to give some added nutrition to their breakfasts. I even made popsicles with 8Greens, adding some blueberries for a burst of color.

(Photo via Lolleez)

Claire had a cough when the Lolleez lollipops arrived, so I offered her the orange-mango flavor, because mango is her fave fruit. Her sister quickly wanted one too. I like that the pop is flat, so there’s no fear of choking (FYI, these pops shouldn’t be offered to kids under three). Dr. Karp said he wasn’t a fan of giving children a stick of sweet because it promotes cavities. The pop contains natural fruit pectin and organic honey to soothe throats. I felt comfortable giving my girls the Lolleez lollipops at dinner as a special treat, but I wouldn’t offer it all day long. In our home, we offer sugary foods as a sometimes treat because I feel it’s healthier to introduce sugar as a fun treat than to nix it entirely.

The Final Results

(Photo via Jennifer Chen)

The results are in! So far (knock on wood), we’re all healthy. Chloe and Claire love to prep our 8Greens drinks at dinner. After a few days of our new routine, my girls are enjoying the rituals. Sick days are no fun for parents and kids, so I’m so ecstatic that we’ve been well for the past few weeks. While we’ve adopted a lot of new habits at once, the extra time spent is worth it to me. Driving to the pediatrician’s office, managing fevers, and middle-of-the-night vomits are way more time-consuming than doing more laundry and cleaning our house a little more. Plus, our daily happy hours are a wonderful time to bond.

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