We can’t claim it’s easy as ABC to keep your child healthy through the cold winter months. But armed with our 26-point survival guide, you stand a fighting chance!
Icy pavements increase the risk of accidents. If your child falls, check whether he needs sympathy or serious treatment. Watch out for strange looking limbs and/or severe pain and swelling. If your child is pale, cold or feels sick or light-headed, he’s likely to have broken a bone. Call the ambulance immediately. Don’t move the limb or give him anything to eat or drink – he may need an anaesthetic at the hospital.
You can’t magically cure bugs such as flu but you can make your child feel better. Make sure he drinks plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially if he also has vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Wrap him up warmly and give liquid paracetamol, such as Calpol, to help soothe aches and pains.
Colds and coughs
Garlic can help combat colds and coughs. More than 1000 studies have shown that it stimulates the body’s white blood cells which fight infection. Try adding a little crushed garlic to soups, stews and vegetables. Don’t give garlic supplements as they may be harmful to children.
Nutritional deficiencies make illness more likely. Ensure your child eats a balanced diet, including fruit and vegetables. If he doesn’t eat meat or fish, he may not be getting enough iron. So make sure you include other foods that are rich in iron, such as fortified breakfast cereals, dark green vegetables, bread, beans and lentils, tofu, dried apricots, figs and prunes.
Cold, windy weather can dry out the skin and winter woollies can irritate it. Try Oilatum to soothe eczema and other sensitive skin conditions. It can be used for babies and is available from high street pharmacies including Boots.
Wellingtons and snow boots have become standard seasonal footwear, but make sure they fit well. Often, they are bought without making the measurement checks used when buying ordinary shoes. Children’s feet grow in spurts and can be damaged if they’re forced into ill-fitting footwear. Don’t forget to give boots a chance to air and dry out before being worn again to help prevent bacteria from building up.
If your child has a cold or ear infection that doesn’t seem to be shifting, be on the lookout for glue ear. It’s very common and happens when fluid collects in the middle ear, behind the ear drum. Glue ear dulls the hearing, so one of the first signs is hearing loss. Try calling children from behind and seeing if they respond. If glue ear persists past winter, then your child may need to have grommets – tiny ventilation tubes – fitted into the ears. Visit your GP who may refer your child to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Studies have shown that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by 85 per cent. Most of us have got the message about cycling and the use of helmets. But also make sure your child wears one for sledding and other outdoor activities. If you start your child young, helmet-wearing will soon become second nature for all rough and tumble activities.
Garlic can help combat colds and coughs. More than 1000 studies have shown that it stimulates the body’s white blood cells which fight infection.
Young immune systems take time to strengthen. So don’t panic if it seems like your child spends most of the winter coughing and sneezing. It’s normal for young children to get up to eight coughs and/or colds a year.
The children's flu vaccine is offered as a yearly nasal spray to young children to help protect them against flu. Flu can be a very unpleasant illness for children, with potentially serious complications, including bronchitis and pneumonia, so it is worth making sure your child receives the vaccine if he is eligible. Those who are eligible include: children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2019 (children born between 1 September 2015 and 31 August 2017); all primary school children and children aged 2 to 17 with long-term health conditions.
Winter kindness is about more than soothing sore throats and noses. There’s an old Japanese proverb that says: ‘One kind word can warm three winter months’. Extend your kindness by reading your child’s favourite stories and singing songs together on sick days.
Babies, toddlers and infants can all suffer from chapped lips in winter. Take a tip from Norwegian women and use pure lanolin. It’s safe for babies and easily available at high street pharmacies. Try Lanolips 101 Ointment which is baby and vegetarian friendly and comes highly recommended.
Mary Poppins wasn’t far wrong when she sang: ‘A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.’ While we don’t advise a sugar-laden diet, a little sweetness can make medicine and ‘things that are good for you’ more palatable. For instance, you can finely chop garlic and mix it into a drink with honey and water (see Colds and Coughs).
Cold, dry weather can cause nose bleeds. Help prevent them by using a humidifier in your child’s bedroom at night. You can also give your child saline nose drops to shrink swollen airways, thin the mucus in the nose and help to keep nasal passages moist. Make your own solution by mixing half a teaspoon of salt into eight ounces of warm water. See your GP if your child’s nose bleeds are severe or keep recurring.
Oats are a wonder food. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. Rustling up a daily bowl of porridge can keep your child’s blood sugar stable, giving a steady source of energy. Warm oats also feel lovely and warm in the stomach, which can help your child feel good in winter.
Phlegm (or mucus) can make children’s lives a misery: disrupting sleep and making them feel groggy. But it serves a useful purpose, as it helps to trap bacteria and viruses. As with nose bleeds, use saline nose drops for some relief.
We all have quirks and it can be endearing to see kids’ often offbeat behaviour! But keep an eye out for any repetitive quirks. For instance, sometimes children can develop a fear of germs and insist on washing their hands too frequently. Be on guard so that good winter health habits don’t get out of control.
It wouldn’t be winter without the rotavirus, which causes stomach illnesses. Spread by dirty hands, the symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Keep your child hydrated and make her a rehydration drink. Once your child is feeling better, feed her rice, banana and yoghurt with added friendly bacteria to promote gut health.
It may be freezing here, but that doesn’t mean the sun has gone on holiday. Snow reflects around 85 per cent of the sun's UV rays so it’s still possible for skin to burn. If you intend to spend all day in the snow – either on a snowy day at home or on a ski-ing holiday – protect your child’s skin by using a sunscreen of factor 15 or above.
Shivering can actually weaken the immune system, as the body fights to regain its inner temperature. So, warm clothing is a must. Always dress your child in one or more layers of clothing than you would wear. Include thermal long johns, a vest, socks, boots, gloves and a hat.
Your GP will advise you when children need routine immunisations. But if your child has a seasonal virus then you’ll need to relax the schedule a little. Wait until children feel better to look after them both now and in the future!
Shivering can actually weaken the immune system, as the body fights to regain its inner temperature. So, warm clothing is a must.
If your child has a healthy, balanced diet then extra vitamins may not be essential in winter. But if children are fussy about what they eat or they suffer from immune disorders, they will definitely benefit from taking supplements.
Vitamins are available for all ages from babyhood: choose a children’s formula that includes vitamins A, C and D.
Viruses are pretty hardy and can survive for several hours on surfaces such as door handles, toilet sinks and stair rails. So, make sure your child regularly washes his hands using soap and plenty of warm water (but also see Quirks).
Christmas may be over but there’s no need for the rest of winter to lack wonder, suspense and surprise. Help beat the winter blues with games and other fun activities. Remember, it’s not only adults who can feel down after Christmas.
Many parents are put off serving yogurt in the winter months, thinking it’s too cold. But experts advocate yogurt as a healthy food choice in all seasons. The immune-boosting properties of yogurt make it an ideal choice to keep common winter illnesses at bay.
Finally, with short days upon us there’s nothing like getting plenty of sleep. If your child has been ill with a cold or the flu, he’ll need some extra rest. Add an extra blanket to your child’s bed to ensure he feels snug and warm.