Health

A-Z of winter health

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 have a fighting chance.

Published

A

Accidents

Icy pavements increase the risk of accidents. If children fall, check whether they need sympathy or serious treatment. Watch out for strange-looking limbs and/or severe pain and swelling. If children are pale, cold or feel sick or light-headed, they’re likely to have broken a bone. Call the ambulance immediately. Don’t move the limb or give them anything to eat or drink – they may need an anaesthetic at the hospital.

B

Bugs

You can’t magically cure bugs such as flu but you can make your child feel better. Make sure they drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially if they also have vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Wrap them up warmly and give liquid paracetamol, such as Calpol, to help soothe aches and pains.

C

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.

D

Diet

Nutritional deficiencies make illness more likely. Ensure your child eats a balanced diet, including fruit and vegetables. If they don’t eat meat or fish, they may not get 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.

E

Eczema

Cold, windy weather can dry out the skin and winter woollies can irritate it. Try Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser, available from Amazon price £2.90. It's suitable from birth and is vegan and cruelty-free – best of all, it gets great reviews from mums!

F

Feet

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.

G

Glue ear

If your child has a cold or ear infection that doesn’t seem to be shifting, be on the lookout for glue ear. Roughly 80 per cent of pre-school children will suffer from this. It 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 see 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.

H

Helmets

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.

I

Infections

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.

J

Jabs

The children's nasal spray flu vaccine is safe and effective. It's offered free on the NHS to children age two-to-three years and to all primary school children. It’s given at the GP surgery if your child is under school age, or otherwise at school. Flu can be a very unpleasant illness for children and can also lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

If your child is aged between six months and two years and has a long-term health condition that makes them at higher risk from flu, they'll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray. This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under two years.

K

Kindness

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’. Express your kindness by reading your child’s favourite stories and singing songs together on sick days.

L

Lips

Babies, toddlers and infants can all suffer from chapped lips in winter. Take a tip from Norwegian women and use pure lanolin. Many mums swear by Dr. Lipp: Original Nipple Balm for Lips. Originally designed for sore nipples after breastfeeding, it’s 100 per cent organic lanolin. It costs £10.20 from www.spacenk.co.uk

M

Medicine

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).

N

Nose bleeds

Cold, dry weather can cause nose bleeds. Help prevent them by using a humidifier in your child’s bedroom at night. You can also use saline nose drops to help keep nasal passages moist. Make your own solution by mixing half a teaspoon of salt into 225g of warm water. But see your GP if your child’s nose bleeds are severe or keep recurring.

O

Oats

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 tummy, which can help your child feel good in winter.

P

Phlegm

Phlegm (or mucus) can make a child’s life 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.

Q

Quirks

We all have quirks and it can be endearing to see children’s 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!

R

Rotavirus

It wouldn’t be winter without the rotavirus, which causes stomach illnesses. Spread by dirty hands, the symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Keep children hydrated and make them a rehydration drink such as Dioralyte (£3.59 for six sachets from www.boots.com). Once your child is feeling better, offer rice, banana and yoghurt with added friendly bacteria to promote gut health.

S

Sunscreen

It may be freezing here, but that doesn’t mean that 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, protect your child’s skin by using a sunscreen of factor 15 or above.

T

Thermals

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.

U

Up-to-date

Your GP will advise when your child needs routine immunisations. But if your child has a seasonal virus then you’ll need to relax the schedule a little. Wait until your child feels better to ensure you promote both current and future health.

V

Vitamins

If your child has a healthy, balanced diet then extra vitamins may not be essential in winter. But for fussy eaters, it can be worth spending money on supplements. Choose a children’s formula that includes vitamins A, C and D.

W

Washing

Viruses are pretty hardy and can survive for several hours on surfaces such as door handles, toilet sinks and stair rails. So, make sure children regularly wash their hands using soap and plenty of warm water (but also see Quirks).

X

Xmas

Christmas may be over but there’s no need for the rest of winter to be devoid of 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.

Z

Zzzzzzz!

Finally, with short days upon us there’s nothing like getting plenty of sleep. When children have been ill with a cold or the flu, they’ll need some extra rest. Add an extra blanket to ensure they feel snug and warm.

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