Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Friday 22 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# parents panel
8 parents on their tricks for keeping winter illness away - from tummy bug tonics to fresh air
Mums and dads with young kids share how they keep germs and bacteria at bay.

BY THE TIME your little one reaches toddler and preschool age, they’re well able to tell you what they want. And that’s where the trouble starts, from dealing with tantrums to navigating playdates. That’s why it can be so helpful to hear how other parents are getting through it all.

Our Toddler and Preschool Parents Panel is made up of parents with little ones from 24 months up to age five.


This week, as we’re in the thick of winter sickness season, we asked our parents for their tried and true tricks for keeping bugs and germs at bay. 

Here are some of the best answers…

We swear by lactic acid bacteria: There is one perhaps unusual thing we do with our kids in the winter and especially if we travel anywhere, and that is bringing a box of lactic acid bacteria with us. This is something my parents used to do when we traveled abroad to prepare our tummies for foreign foods. So far we have been able to avoid funny tummies and kept our boys relatively healthy so I’m happy to keep this up.

- Kaisu Healy

Our whole family gets the flu jab: As well as teaching our three-year-old good hygiene habits – hand washing, covering nose and mouth during sneezes and coughs – and trying to get as much fresh fruit and vegetables into our children’s diet, our whole family got the flu vaccine this year. Anyone over the age of six months can get the flu vaccine and it is especially recommended for anyone with an underlying medical condition, like our daughter’s frequent seizures when she is unwell. You can never be guaranteed to be 100% protected from the flu, but if you have had the vaccination you are less likely to get it and, if you do, it will be a much milder dose than if you weren’t vaccinated. Have a chat with your GP or a medical professional about the flu vaccination and the benefits of your family getting vaccinated. 

- Deirdre McCormack

Cool it with the central heating: The research could be shaky, but I am a great believer in keeping things on the cooler side. I open the windows every day to get fresh air into the house, rarely put the central heating on and we layer up at home. I’m not a complete sadist – we have two stoves that are lit! I could be testing fate, but we are rarely sick. 

- Cliondhna Kerrigan

I rely on Dettol air spray: We can’t seem to avoid our twins picking up colds and coughs this year. I’m blaming it on starting pre-school as they’re obviously exposed to more germs. We’ve just come out of another bad dose over Christmas, so as soon as we returned home after staying with my in-laws, I cleaned the house from top to bottom and sprayed everywhere with the Dettol air spray to hopefully kill off any lingering germs. While they were sick, if they didn’t have a fever, I gave them honey and lemon throat syrup and got them wrapped up and out in the fresh air every day.

- Joanne Burke

Sugary drinks to cure a stomach bug… maybe: My friend does a lot of river swimming and apparently after a race they give them two cans of full fat fizzy drinks to kill any water borne germs they might have swallowed. Not that I’d give it to my kids, but I have tried it myself when the whole house is down with a tummy bug and it seems to have worked. Very scientific, I know. 

We also ask people not to come over if anyone has been sick recently or is a bit off form. That and roaring “Don’t lick your brother!” “Don’t drink the bath water! “Stop stealing his dodie!” multiple times a day.

- Tracy Kilgallon

We push fruit and veg: If kids are in childcare, it seems to be virtually impossible to avoid the illnesses. Luckily, we have had nothing too sinister here this year bar snotty noses and persistent coughs. I haven’t bothered with multivitamins yet, I hear more advice saying they are useless than helpful. But we do keep the fruit and veg going in as much as possible, and plenty of fresh air. Minimising central heating definitely helps when it comes to chestiness as well.

- Michelle O’Brien 

I take the kids outside to calm their croup: Croup is the persistent pest in our house. When I see it coming, I plan ahead for an awful night’s sleep and set up a downstairs emergency outside clothing kit of jackets and blankets for me and whichever kid is showing signs, so we are ready in the middle of the night for a stint outside in the cold air. I try to avoid, when possible, the steroids that are prescribed for this, and try to nip it in the bud by setting my alarm for the middle of the night and bringing said kid outside into the cold fresh air for 10 minutes or so.

The planning ahead of jackets and blankets and a chair outside makes it all a whole lot easier. I always warn the kid in advance, that we will have a “midnight adventure” so they aren’t upset by waking up in the dark, and I use the time to look at the stars and tell stories. This works most of the time to prevent croup getting worse and requiring a doctor. That said, we have been to ShannonDoc and then the hospital in the wee hours for croup more than once – hence the attempt at the preventative measures. 

- Emily Lewis

And finally: My main technique usually involves chasing my girls around the house in an attempt to put their socks back on…

- Ger

More: One for the mantelpiece? 6 priceless photos of kids meeting Santa

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel