When my two older boys were younger I distinctly remember thinking one winter they were never going to go back to preschool because they were never healthy. Fast forward about five years and one additional kid, and we seem to be in a better spot health-wise. I attribute this to a few changes I’ve made, which I've highlighted below. I’m not a doctor, nor a scientist, so this is purely speculation, but it seems to be working for us.
1. Get rid of the hand sanitizer and just use soap and water. I used to use hand sanitizer religiously thinking it was actually doing some good. I think instead it was just stripping the kids of any "good dirt" and making them more vulnerable to infection. I could be wrong about this, but since I have switched to just handwashing with regular old soap and water we’ve had better luck with staying away from colds and other infections.
2. Add a daily probiotic. About three years ago, I started everyone on a daily morning probiotic appropriate for their age. I just buy the one they will actually tolerate from Whole Foods so no real science going into this, but I figure it can’t hurt them, and possibly only help.
3. Get a flu shot. This is a vaccine, so clearly there is major debate around whether one should receive a flu shot. Full disclosure: I am 100% in the "all vaccines are good vaccines" camp, and I make sure my kids, myself and my husband all receive the flu shot every year.
4. Cut down on dairy and push water. My kids don’t really drink milk or any milk-based products. My older two children had ear tubes and chronic ear infections when they were younger, and the doctor suggested to cut back on dairy. I’ve followed that advice ever since and the head colds and congestion have definitely decreased.
5. Get fresh air. Ever since my oldest was just two weeks old (and this was during a Chicago winter) my mom always said, "Get him outside!" I try to get the kids outside for a little while every single day, no matter what. It’s good for their mental health and their physical health (as well as mine). I also try to open the windows to air out the house every once in a while, too. This is definitely a throw back to my nana, but it makes the house seem fresh in the middle of winter, and as if the germs are leaving the premises.
Sometimes getting sick is just hit or miss, and for whatever reason some kids are more susceptible to getting sick. However, these basic tips have definitely helped us decrease illness overall. I also found that getting through that first year of preschool or kindergarten helped build up the kids’ immune systems immensely.