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Annie Sumrall, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Battling Cold & Flu: How to Keep Kids Healthy This Winter

By Kristy Warren


Winter seems to spell cold and flu for parents and kids alike. This time of year, the most common illnesses include colds, influenza (flu), strep throat, and the dreaded “stomach bug.” With so many illnesses circulating, how can parents effectively prepare for cold and flu season?  
Prevention is the most important step you and your family can take. 

As the old saying goes, prevention is worth a pound of cure. Join us as Annie Sumrall, Pediatric CRNP, a new pediatric nurse practitioner with the Laurel Health Centers, shares tips on how to keep the whole family healthy this season! Learn what symptoms to watch for, when to keep your kids home, when it’s safe to send them back to school, and when to see a doctor.

Follow these preventive tips to keep you and your family healthy this cold and flu season: 

  • Teach your children about proper handwashing and how to cover their coughs and sneezes. Using the crook of your elbow can be an effective way to trap the spray, but remember to throw that shirt in the laundry hamper at the end of the day!

  • Don’t touch your face with unwashed hands, as the eyes, nose, and mouth are easy entry points for germs.

  • Regularly disinfect surfaces in your home.

  • Utilize hand sanitizer while you’re on the go.

  • Get immunized for the flu on a yearly basis: the most common flu strains change from year to year, so it’s important to get vaccinated each year.


Young children can’t fight the flu as effectively as adults, leading to a greater risk for complications like pneumonia. By being vaccinated, even if a child catches the flu, their risk for complications has been lowered. Remember, a flu shot does not protect against colds, stomach “flu,” or all respiratory illnesses, so it’s important to practice good prevention strategies like proper handwashing all year long.


When should parents keep kids home?

It’s important to keep your child home anytime he or she has a fever (100.4 degrees or higher), is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, or is feeling very fatigued (worn down). Even a simple head cold can be draining on your child at times. If your child isn’t feeling well enough to perform well at school, it’s best to keep them home.



When should your family head to the doctor’s office?

Parents spend more time with their child than anyone else and know better than anyone what is normal for their child.

If you’re worried about how your children are behaving because they aren’t being themselves, aren’t eating or drinking normally, are having trouble sleeping, or are running a high fever, it’s time to make an appointment with your family medicine provider.

If your child starts to have difficulty breathing, seek emergency medical care. 

Child with a fever blowing nose with her father checking her forehead

The Laurel Health Centers offer extended hours, evening / weekend appointments, and after-hours nurse triage coverage to help your family get the expert care they need whenever they need it. Call 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) or visit laurelhc.org to make an appointment.

When is it safe to send kids back to school?

Sharing isn’t always caring. We don’t want our kids to share their illness with others. Before sending your kids back to school, they must be fever-free and free from any diarrhea or vomiting for a full 24 hours without the help of any over-the-counter medicines that manage those symptoms like Pepto Bismol, Imodium, or fever reducers (e.g., Tylenol / Acetaminophen or Advil / Ibuprofen / Motrin).

Child receiving medicine from his mother; sick child lying in bed with medication on table

Antibiotics cannot treat viral illnesses like cold and flu. If your child was prescribed antibiotics for an infection, he or she should take those antibiotics as prescribed for the full duration listed in the instructions. You may be tempted to stop the antibiotics as your child feels better, but if they stop taking antibiotics prematurely, it can weaken the medication’s future strength and give rise to dangerous antibiotic-resistant illnesses.   

Annie Sumrall, Pediatric CRNP, sees patients aged newborn through 21 and is currently accepting new patients at the Elkland Laurel Health Center. To make an appointment with Annie Sumrall, call 814-258-5117.

For more winter wellness tips, visit the Laurel Health Centers online at laurelhc.org or facebook.com/laurelhc.