Children are exposed to significantly more bacteria than adults, but their ability to fight against cold or flu germs is not nearly as strong. Thankfully, to keep your kids healthy during the worst of cold and flu season, there are a few simple things you can do.

First, encourage regular and effective hand washing. Teach your children proper hand washing technique, making sure they use warm water and soap and scrub their fingers and palms, as well as the back of their hands and wrists. To make sure they’re lathering long enough, teach kids to slowly sing the ABC’s while washing their hands.

A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and protein is another effective way to ward off the sniffles. Because children eat smaller portions, choose nutrient dense foods that are packed with vitamins and antioxidants to help protect tissue from damage. Avoid processed foods that may actually weaken a child’s immune system, and instead choose food packed with Vitamin C, such as dark leafy greens, kiwis, strawberries, tomatoes, or cantaloupe, or zinc rich foods such as peas, potatoes, oatmeal, or brown rice. Foods with probiotics, such as yogurt and kefir are another great way to increase levels of “healthy bacteria” that help improve digestion and fight off illness-related bacteria.

Finally, it may be difficult to remain active in the winter, but physical activity can help the production of white blood cells, which in turn helps our bodies fight infection. Try to limit time spent in front of a screen and instead encourage kids to stay active throughout the day. If, despite your best efforts, children start to show signs of illness, remember to encourage rest instead of activity, in order to allow their bodies to recover.

Proper hygiene, a healthy diet, activity, and enough sleep can go a long way in keeping kids healthy during cold and flu season, but if your child shows signs of illness and requires medical care, do not hesitate to call your healthcare provider for immediate medical assistance.