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Pediatrician explains how to boost your child's immune system during cough and cold season

There's nothing worse than hearing your child cough, sneeze and wheeze in the middle of the night. And, unfortunately, children are especially susceptible to illnesses during cough and cold season. However, there are ways to help prepare your kids and keep sickness at bay this winter.

Cold and flu season is typically worst between December and February, but it can start as early as the fall and extend into May, Dr. Hansa Bhargava, a senior medical director at WebMD and a pediatrician, told in AccuWeather in an email.

So, how can you prepare your child for cough and cold season? 

According to Bhargava, the best way to prepare children for the onslaught of germs this winter is to teach good habits about colds and coughs and to get the flu vaccine.

"Good habits include washing hands before eating or drinking, not sharing food or drinks with friends as this is how infections can spread and if you have a cough, coughing into your shoulder to prevent the droplets from spreading," Bhargava said.

Bhargava stresses that getting the flu vaccine is very important to prevent coming down with influenza.

There are also a number of lifestyle strategies that can help make a child's immune system stronger.

"To help your immune system, there are some basics that we sometimes forget," Bhargava said.

One of those basics is sleep and rest, which is critical to keeping a strong immune system. Most kids need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.

Hydration and a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and veggies can also help to boost a child's immune system.

And for those overrun parents, it's important to find ways to squeeze in some relaxation time to de-stress.

"Stress can over extend our bodies and this may impact the immune system, too," Bhargava said. "Taking care of yourself cannot be overstated, and it helps you [to] take care of your loved ones too, if you are healthy and not sick."

The following lifestyle strategies may make a person's immune system stronger:

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes a mix of foods rich in vitamin C
  • Get enough sleep
  • Practice correct hand-washing and oral hygiene
  • Minimize stress
  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation

With the cold and cough season moving in, practicing these healthy tips and arming your children with knowledge can help prevent seasonal illnesses from hitting your household.