Skip to content
This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff and is brought to you by Reckitt Benckiser.

Ever see another kid wipe his runny nose on the back of his hand, then keep playing with your daughter? Cringe.

Kids do share a lot of germs. But you can teach children as young as 2 or 3 the habits to help them avoid catching or spreading a cold or the flu.

They will probably need some practice. "Teach them over and over," says Denver pediatrician Jerry Rubin, MD, coauthor of Naturally Healthy Kids. It's worth it.

Show your kids these five steps:

1. Wash your hands.

Hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent colds and flu.

Help your child lather up with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. To help her know how long that is, "sing the 'Happy Birthday' song twice," says Atlanta pediatrician Jennifer Shu, MD.

Then have her rinse and dry hands well.

Let her know when to wash her hands. "I usually say wash after going to bathroom, before eating, after coming in from outside, after using a tissue, and when the hands look dirty," Shu says.

If soap and water aren't available, use hand sanitizer instead.

2. Use separate cups and utensils.

Kids often share drinks and nibbles. But when someone has a cold or the flu, that can spread viruses.

Rubin recommends never sharing food or drinks, even if no one is sick. That makes the habit stick. Remember, people are often contagious before they start coughing or sniffling.

The same goes for you. "Parents can set a good example by doing the same and practicing in front of their children," says Yvonne Maldonado, MD. She is chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.

3. Cough into your arm.

Teach your child to cough or sneeze into the crook of her arm, or inside of her elbow.

"In my opinion, the arm-crook sneeze/cough is the best public health invention since soap," says pediatrician David Hill, MD, author of Between Us Dads: A Father's Guide to Child Health.

Show your child how. They should find it simple and silly enough to copy.

Mucinex

Mucinex® Provides All
Day Congestion Relief

One mucus busting pill. All
day chest congestion relief.
Only Mucinex® has a unique
bi-layer tablet that starts right
away and keeps working for
12 full hours.

Mucinex Fast Max Night Time

Mucinex® Fast-Max®
Night Time Cold &
Flu Relief

Mucinex® Fast-Max®Night
Time. Multi-symptom relief
plus a nasal decongestant.
Breathe easy. Sleep easy.

Previous Slide Next Slide
close

From Our Sponsor

Content under this heading is from or created on behalf of the named sponsor. This content is not subject to the WebMD Editorial Policy and is not reviewed by the WebMD Editorial department for accuracy, objectivity or balance.

All About the Flu

How long you're contagious and other flu facts.

View More

Is it a cold or the flu?

Test your knowledge.

View More

WebMD Answers to Top Cold and Flu Questions

  • Can I do anything to make my cold go away faster?

    While there's no cure for a cold, there are definitely things you can do to help your body beat a cold virus faster...More

  • What causes a common cold?

    The rhinovirus (or other cold virus) enters your body through your nose or mouth and is easily spread...More

  • Can a cold develop into flu?

    The cold and the flu are caused by different viruses. So a cold can't turn into the flu, but...More

close

From Our Sponsor

Content under this heading is from or created on behalf of the named sponsor. This content is not subject to the WebMD Editorial Policy and is not reviewed by the WebMD Editorial department for accuracy, objectivity or balance.