How to survive cold and flu season without completely losing your mind

Is it just me or is everyone sick again?  Parenting has taken my inner germaphobe out of hiding and directly into the mayhem that is having a kiddo in preschool.  I want to curl up in the fetal position and cry until Spring.  Does anyone have a plastic bubble I can borrow until then?  Because cold and flu season is officially here.

This post contains affiliate links.  I’m not a doctor, just a Mom who scoured the internets for cold and flu season tips.

If you have a school-aged kid you’re bound to be dealing with some form of sickness this season (and next – sorry!) – but that doesn’t mean you have to roll over and just take it.  There are tons of things we can do as parents to avoid getting the sniffles and survive if our entire family goes down with the stomach bug or another ailment this cold and flu season.


Flu shots (and other vaccines) are always a hot topic, but being married to an immunologist who studies this sort of thing, I support it – fully.  If you can, get your flu shot early (like, now – before the end of October).  Kiddos under 6 months are not eligible, so make sure the rest of your fam is vaccinated to keep your little safe.

And, no.  Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot.  Your body may have an immune response, but it will not be the actual “flu”.  It takes 2 weeks for the flu shot to take effect, so if you come in contact with someone in that window, you can still catch it. You can learn more about the flu shot via the CDC’s website.


I have had some pretty epic battles with my kiddo over hand washing, but I always win. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to avoid getting some of the more contagious bugs out there (I’m talkin’ to you norovirus!), so make sure they spend a lot of time washing their hands after being out and about. We sing ABC’s to make sure she’s been scrubbing long enough.

How to survive cold and flu season without completely losing your mind

When out and about, use hand sanitizers with 60-95% alcohol concentration (make sure you cover your whole hands and let it dry!).  Hand sanitizers don’t kill all germs, but they will protect you from a bunch.  We keep this version in the car and spray up as soon as I we get strapped into the car seat.


Make sure your kids understand what germs are, how they can catch them and how they can keep them to themselves.  There are great books out there (like this version and Germs are not for Sharing) and awesome activities you can do to illustrate the process to them.

Teach them to cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze (in their elbow “like a vampire” as we say), blow thier noses, avoid sharing snacks and drinks with besties, keep thier hands out of thier mouth, keep objects out of thier mouth,

Here’s a super fun “quarantine” you can make for siblings 🙂


If there is ever a better time to make sure you’re keeping your house clean, now is it.  Vacuum, dust and clean bathrooms regularly, sterilize toothbrushes and sponges and wash common area pillow covers and blankets more frequently. Keep toys clean and sanitized and, if you have a sick person or kid at your house, do it all over again (twice, if you’re a crazy person like me!).

How to survive cold and flu season without completely losing your mind

Also – make sure you keep your vehicle’s and car seats clean and never, ever wear outdoor shoes inside the house!


If you do catch something, make sure you have everything you need on hand.  No one wants to run to the store with a sick kiddo (and I promise you, no one wants to see you and your sick kiddo in the store).

How to survive cold and flu season without completely losing your mind

Here’s a few things you may want to pick up before anyone catches a bug:

  • A good thermometer.  We use one like this that reads forehead and inner ear.
  • Doctor approved, child safe medicines
  • Lila pops all natural pops for sore throats and coughs.  We love these!
  • Natural remedies, like elderberry, aromatherapy hot and cold packs
  • Tissues, boogie wipes and saline drops
  • Electrolyte drinks, chicken soup and bone broth
  • BRAT diet foods
  • Disposable gloves
  • Disinfectant wipes and sprays
  • Barf bucket
  • Old towels and wash clothes
  • Mattress protector (we have two to be safe)
  • Two extra sets of bedsheets and duvet covers


There are also things we can do to avoid spreading contagious stuff to other kids and their families (you know how I feel about really sick kids in public places!), like not sending your kid to school or play dates at their most contagious times.

How to survive cold and flu season without completely losing your mind

It can get confusing.  I mean, we can’t keep our coughs and runny noses under lock and key (we’d be inside all season long!), but we can keep our kids home when the time is right.

Here’s a quick guide for the most common ailments:

  • Ear infections.  Not contagious.  Send them to school as long as they feel okay.
  • Fever. May be contagious. A fever over 100 degrees may indicate an underlying illness (like the flu), so keep em’ home until they are free from fever for 24 hours.
  • Mild Colds and Coughs.  May be contagious. If they have the sniffles, mild cough, and decent energy send em’ to school. As long as they feel okay, don’t have a fever and don’t require the teachers to take away from their daily activities to care for them they should be good.
  • Severe Colds and Coughs. May be contagious. It could be something contagious, like whooping cough, viral bronchitis or croup.  Keep em’ home until their symptoms subside or your doctor says otherwise.
  • Nausea, Vomiting & Diarrhea. May be contagious. Keep em’ home until they are free from symptoms 24 hours.
  • Rashes. May be contagious. Make a judgment call based upon their other symptoms.  If it doesn’t seem to be bothering them and they don’t have other symptoms, you may choose to send them to school.  If you’re unsure for any reason, keep them home until they are diagnosed.
  • Flu.  Contagious!  Keep them home until severe symptoms have subsided and at least 24 hours after fever goes away.
  • Strep Throat. Contagious! Keep them home until they’ve been on antibiotics for 24 hours.
  • Pinkeye. Contagious! Keep them home for the first 24 hours after treatment.
  • Hand Foot Mouth Contagious!  Keep them home until they’ve been fever free for 24 hours (this is usually 2-3 days) and widespread blisters have dried up.
  • ChickenpoxContagious!  Keep them home for 5 days after the spots first appeared. Sores should be crusted over and dry (usually 5-6 days from onset)
  • Rubella, Whooping Cough, Mumps, Measles and Hepatitius AContagious! Each have specific guidelines you can access via the CDC.
  • Lice Contagious!  Your school may send your kiddo home if they find it there. Either way, they can head back to school the morning after their first treatment.

For everything else, go with your gut and check with your child’s school as most of them have rules about specific illnesses.  If they have mouth sores, are experiencing pain or are otherwise just not themselves, you may want to hold them back to avoid an episode at school (or your trip to pick up a sick kid).


I’m tired.  This was a long list.  But, it covers off all the things I search a hundred times a year to make sure I’m getting things right when it comes to cold and flu season.  GOOD LUCK and drop any tips, tricks or hacks you have below!


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*DISCLAIMER:  This post is a combination of my personal insights, opinions and thoughts on various topics and products and may contain affiliate or referral links.  I earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my links, which helps me continue on this fabulous journey of blogging!  Full disclaimers avail. here

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