How to Help Children Stay Healthy this Winter
When you are a parent of young children, the autumn and winter seasons can feel like a constant battle against germs. As soon as one cold ends, the next illness seems to start…
The drop in temperature means people spend more time socialising indoors and that is the perfect opportunity for viruses to spread. The air is also drier which allows viruses to survive for longer.
Cough and cold season is in full swing and it feels like the kids are forever passing things around school and then bringing it back home to their families.
Dr Roger Henderson, an experienced GP of more than 30 years, is partnering with children’s cough syrup brand, Tixylix, to offer insights and advice to parents about this topic and I will share some of the tips in this article. We’ll look at how to prevent and treat colds and when it’s time to seek medical help.
In the post-pandemic world that we live in, it is actually likely that children have immune systems that may be underdeveloped which could lead to less resistance meaning children contract more illnesses than they would have usually and that they could take longer to recover.
Dr Henderson comments that this is due to the lack of exposure to microbes in the environment as a result of the lockdowns, social distancing and mask-wearing we have experienced in recent years.
He adds: “This doesn’t actually mean their immune system is weak, or they will be prone to more illnesses as they get older. In fact, germs are not all bad! Exposure to some common viral infections can help your child’s body learn to fight off those infections in the future and can help to nurture a stronger immune system long-term.”
“As adults, our immune system has been shaped by our exposure to infectious organisms through our childhood and early adulthood and this is rather like a computer that retains immunity memory, even when exposed to new infections such as Covid. Of course, some adults may experience a cough or cold that feels more severe than normal, likely because we have forgotten how bad they can be as a result of being quarantined.”
How Parents Can Help Their Children Stay Healthy This Winter
There are things that we can all do to reduce the risk of getting ill and as parents we can help our children by encouraging healthy habits:
- Encourage a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Keep your children well-hydrated (water is best!) and ensure that they have their own reusable water bottle for school so that they don’t share any drinking vessels with others.
- Encourage a good sleep routine with a good wind-down routine that ensures your child gets the minimum hours of recommended sleep for their age.
- Ensure regular hand-washing and teach your children how to wash their hands thoroughly and properly. Change your hand towels for fresh ones often too.
- Teach your little ones to cough and sneeze into the inside of their elbow or into a disposable tissue and to follow with washing their hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
- Make sure your children have had their flu vaccination for this year. This is just a painless nasal spray so nothing to worry about.
How to Treat a Child with a Cough or Cold
As parents, we naturally want to do everything we can to help our children when they’re poorly. Sometimes, your child might have a cough or cold that is not bothering them at all and then they don’t need any treatment at all. They’ll still play happily and will be able to sleep normally.
At other times, the cough or cold could be really bothering your child and then there are things that you can do to help:
- Keep your child well-hydrated with lots of fluids as this helps to thin the body’s secretions which will make it easier for your child to blow their nose and to cough too.
- If your home air is dry, you can use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air which can help reduce coughing fits. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can run a warm steamy shower to increase the moisture in the air.
- Encourage your child to get plenty of rest and suggest calm activities for them to do while they’re recovering from their illness.
- You can use a glycerol-based over the counter cough syrup like Tixylix (suitable from 3 months to 5 years) to relieve the symptoms of a dry or tickly cough. This can be extra beneficial at bedtime to prevent sleep disturbances from coughing so that your child can get a good night’s sleep.
Trust your instinct and if you’re ever concerned about your child’s health, take them to your GP or phone 111 for medical help and advice or 999 for an emergency situation. Thank you to Tixylix and Dr Henderson for sharing your tips!