1. Breast-feed for at least four to six months if possible. There is good evidence that this increases immunity.
2. Have your baby immunised against childhood diseases like polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough unless there is a clear medical reason to the contrary. And don’t forget measles immunisation at the beginning of her second year when you may not be attending the baby clinic quite as often.
3. Give your children a wholesome diet of fresh meat, fish, dairy produce, fruit and vegetables and use wholemeal bread and cereals. Vitamin supplements can be useful, especially in cold weather.
4. Make sure they have plenty of rest and sleep. Tired children pick up infections more easily. Keep the bedroom warm but well-ventilated.
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5. Take your children our for fresh air and exercise every fine day, even if it’s cold. As long as they are warmly wrapped this will do them good.
6. Give up or cut down on smoking. Children living at home where adults smoke suffer more illness.
7. Stress and anxiety lower resistance to infection, so avoid putting too much pressure on toddlers and children, whether it is about tantrums, potty training or whatever. Try to stay calm about potential problem areas such as move houses, beginning nursery or the arrival of a new baby. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your children will be. If she seems to be going through a bad patch, try to sort out why and give lots of love and reassurance.
8. Adopt a sensible attitude to illness and help children to take it in their stride. Over-protection, over-anxiety or too much fussing can make them suffer more.
9. There is absolutely no need to prevent toddlers and children mixing with others at home or nursery school in the hope of preventing illness. The benefits of a social life far outweigh the risk of catching a few colds or infections. Most children have between one and five colds a year. The vast majority of unimmunised children will catch measles and whooping cough at some time and over half will have mumps. There is a lot to be said for getting these over during childhood when they tend to be less severe than in adults. But encouraging immunity and a healthy constitution will reduce the chance of serious illness and complications, and cut down on the number of tiresome coughs and colds.
10. Take reasonable precautions to keep babies less than six months cold away from infection. Discourage visitors, adults or children who have heavy colds or coughs. Avoid taking your baby to nursery if there is an epidemic of something in full swing.However if you’re ill yourself there is no need to stop breast-feeding and little point in wearing a mask. She will have received all your germs before you noticed you were ill. There is little point in rigorously excluding brothers and sisters with minor infections for the same reason but use your common sense or take your doctor’s advice about more serious ones such as measles or whopping cough.