As a pediatrician, I take care of sick children throughout the year. But the winter season brings airborne winter viruses that make children prone to getting sick all season long. This is especially taxing on parents as they watch their children feel miserable, miss school, and in turn, miss work themselves.
It isn’t surprising that as winter approaches, parents commonly ask how they can keep their children healthy through the cold season. One thing that both parents and pediatricians agree on is that prevention is preferable to treatment whenever possible.
Here are some winter wellness tips to help keep kids healthy during the winter season:
Provide them with proper nutrition and supplements.
- Some vitamins such as vitamin C as well as zinc and probiotics can help boost the immune systems of children.
- When possible, the best way to get nutrition is through food. Yogurt is a great source of probiotics and zinc.
- You can get zinc through foods such as beans, chicken, beef, and some breakfast cereals.
- Research has also shown that the fiber found in apples, oats, and nuts can help reduce inflammation and boost our immune systems.
- You can also supplement with probiotics such as Mommy’s Bliss Drops or Powder Packs.
- As always, verify with your pediatrician before giving any supplements to your child or changing their diet.
Teach your children to wash their hands!
- One of the most important things you can teach your kids about staying healthy is to encourage them to wash their hands regularly with soap.
- Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to objects such as tables and toys. And since children frequently share spaces together, they then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth and introduce infections into their bodies.
- If we can teach children to wash their hands regularly, research has shown that this can help prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and even skin and eye infections.
- Stress is a well-known immune suppressor. Mindfulness practices that help children find their center of calm in stressful situations are vital to keeping them healthy through the winter season.
- I recommend teaching children a simple breathing exercise such as the “balloon breathing technique.” Ask them to visualize a balloon in their belly. When they take a deep breath in, the balloon expands. And as they breathe out, the balloon deflates. You could also ask them to imagine that they are exhaling out their favorite color as if to exhale good vibes into the world.
- Not only does deep breathing help bring calm into any situation, but it is also a tool that children can take with them anywhere.
Keep skin hydrated.
- Remember to use sunscreen even in the winter! Even when the sun isn’t shining, the sun’s rays can get through. If you’re around snow, it’s even more important to use sunscreen regularly to protect a child’s skin. Winter sun can reflect off the snow.
- Cold weather can force us to turn up the heat indoors. This can make the air indoors very dry. By placing a humidifier in your child’s bedroom you can prevent skin from feeling itchy and dry.
Keep your kids out of the cold when they’re sick, but let them play outside when they’re feeling well!
- Being outside in itself does not predispose a child to “catch a cold.” A child has to be exposed to the cold virus to catch a cold. However, cold weather can cause a virus that is already in a child’s system to flare up.
- Research has shown that cold weather can cause our blood vessels to constrict. Since warm blood supplies our infection-fighting white blood cells, this can suppress the immune system.
- If your child already has a cold, it is best to keep them indoors so their bodies can continue to heal.
- If your child does not have a cold, there is no reason to keep them indoors during the winter months. In fact, it is important that your child gets vitamin D, which they can get through sun exposure. Vitamin D can help elevate their mood and improve calcium absorption for healthy bones. While the use of sunscreen is important, it can decrease the absorption of Vitamin D. If you don’t feel that your child gets enough sun in the winter months, perhaps supplementing with Vitamin D drops, such as Mommy’s Bliss Vitamin D Organic Drops, is best for you.
When Symptom Control is Needed
- You can use a cough syrup such as Mommy’s Bliss. The baby formula has agave, which is safe for children less than one. The kid’s formula has honey, agave and elderberry*
- NOTE: Do not give honey to children younger than one.
Last, but not least, follow your parental instincts and call your pediatrician if:
- Your child is less than three months old and has a fever of 100.4F or higher.
- If your child is older than three months and has a fever of 103F or higher, or has had a fever for more than four days.
- If your child is not tolerating or keeping down any liquids.
- If your child looks tired and lethargic or is having breathing difficulties.
*Please verify with your pediatrician before giving any new products to your child.
Note: Dr. Smita serves as an Advisor to Mommy’s Bliss.
Photo credit: Thom Holmes from unsplash.com