With a new cold and flu season creeping up on us (after a particularly harsh season last year) it’s time to start being extra vigilant about germ control.  The good news is that, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), influenza activity has been low so far.  But the bad news? Two pediatric deaths have already been reported.  To prepare for whatever the months ahead might hold, it’s good to plan your offensive strategy to keep those bugs at bay.  To that end, we’ve summed up the best in expert advice on how to keep your house healthy this winter.

Wash Those Hands. From the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to the CDC,  it is agreed that the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs comes down to the basics: wash your hands.  Do it often, for longer than you think (two rounds of the ABCs), with warm water (it’s like the special sauce of hand washing) and regular soap.  When you feel your child is ready (this could be as early as 8 months!) start to teach them how to wash their own hands.  As for soap, the American Medical Association says to ditch the antibacterial varieties— there’s no proof it’s more effective than regular soap.

It’s okay to use hand sanitizer when you’re in a pinch, but be sure not to make it the go-to way to clean hands.  The Mayo Clinic reminds us that children under 2 years of age should not use hand sanitizer, and when children do use it, they should be supervised and use only a dime-sized amount.   Toddlers also thrive on habit, so work handwashing into daily routines–anytime you come into the house, before and after each meal, and before and after playing in a public space are all good places to start.

Dust Off That Humidifier. Humidifiers are as much a preventive measure to ward of sickness as they are the key to getting some sleep when your little one is congested.  Think of dry, winter air as the home field advantage for germs: it dries out your sinuses, lowering your resistance to bacteria and viruses, plus, germs travel better in dry air.  Slow ‘em down by keeping the air moist, and when the air is moist, sinuses are less likely to dry out.

Bundle Up.  The CDC emphasizes the importance of staying warm to keep immune systems running in proper form.  Be sure you have plenty of layers (and backups!) for your babe.

Disinfect…Sometimes. As for the great disinfecting debate, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and AAP both agree there is a time and place for it. The quick rule? Clean daily, save the disinfecting for times of illness.  Use a disinfecting solution (not wipes—the verdict is still out on those) and be sure to follow the directions for disinfecting precisely, as it usually involves allowing the product sit on the surface for some time.  While there’s no reason to regularly clean toys when everyone in the house is healthy, when there is a sick child or after anytime after a playdate, cleaning and disinfecting is a good idea.  While we’re on the topic of household germs, here’s another reason to keep that smartphone and TV remote out of baby’s reach: they’re two of the gnarliest items in your house. Yuck.

Keep ‘Em Rested, Hydrated, and Full of Fruits and Veggies. More than any cleaning regimen, remember that the best defense against illness is plenty of rest, a balanced diet and proper hydration.  Fill your little’s diet with immune-boosting foods like chicken soup made from bone broth,  plain yogurt, a mix of fruits and veggies, and plenty of water.  If the early signs of illness rear their ugly head (read: a runny nose, crankiness or tiredness, and/or cough) pump the brakes and take time to rest.

Weigh Your Vaccination Options. For the 2018-’19 season, the AAP recommends “inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) – trivalent or quadrivalent – as the primary choice for all children because of the effectiveness of LAIV4 was inferior against A/H1N1 during past seasons; and is unknown against A/H1N1 for this upcoming season.”   To read the AAP’s 2018-2019 Influenza Policy, click here.

May the odds be ever in your favor this flu season!