Wipe your paws

MUG Steve Coker 2Grandmother was a wise old sage, but often could be a bit eccentric.

One of the joys of her life was a peke-a-poo dog named Harry. That was an appropriate name because Harry was just that, “hairy.” He had long, smooth hair from his nose to his tail and that was the problem.
Harry had a pet door which he was free to use during the day and he used it rain or shine. Whenever Harry would come inside, his feet would always be muddy, wet or trailing leaves or grass. Every time he came in the door, Grandmother would clap her hands and he would stop and wait for her to come and wipe his paws. If she wasn’t right there, he learned to sit by the door until she came to wipe his paws. Just by association every time Grandmother clapped her hands, I would habitually clean my feet also. She had trained Harry and Harry had trained me.
As our cold and flu season is in full bloom everywhere, there are some habits that we all, especially children, can learn that will significantly reduce our transmission of cold and flu. After all, it’s a fact of parenting life – kids equal germs. They share toys, put things in their mouth, and rub their faces with grubby little hands. During the fall and winter, schools, day care centers and other places where children gather act as incubators for colds and the flu. So, flu prevention for children is much more complicated than it is for adults.
What can you do to help make sure little Olivia, Ethan or Marcus doesn’t bring home a nice, big dose of the flu with this week’s art project? Try these tips on flu prevention for children:

n Teach them to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue away.
n Wash their hands often with soap and water. If you’re out and about, keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy.
n Remind kids not to touch their hands, eyes or mouth, a common path for germs to spread. They will forget, so keep reminding.
n Don’t send your child to school sick. This rule can be hard for busy parents to live by but ignoring it will just keep the virus spreading.
n Above all, get your children vaccinated! The flu vaccine is widely available this year, and it can be given to children six-months old and up. Kids between six-months and 5-years old are especially vulnerable to flu complications, so it’s particularly important to vaccinate them.
There are two types of vaccine, the flu shot and a nasal spray. Officials have just lowered the age at which the nasal spray can be prescribed from age 5 to age 2, so if your younger child hates needles (and who doesn’t?), you now have an alternative.
Like Harry, we can all learn some good habits that are good hygiene and promote a healthy lifestyle, especially for our children.
And if you clap your hands around me, I may even clean my feet.
Old habits die hard.

Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston School District. He can be reached at 456-3332.

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