How To Keep Your Baby Healthy During Winter
Wintertime is well known to carry a higher risk of illness for the most vulnerable members of our society, children, the elderly and those with delicate immune systems. It is a period where parents become more vigilant about bundling up, and how to ensure that the air being breathed in is healthy.
Young children are the toughest to monitor during this period because they often do not pay attention to early warning signs of illness and tend to alert their parents or guardians when the sickness has taken hold. Here are some of the top illnesses and other health conditions suffered by young children during winter months.
- Colds – colds are a commonplace infection for kids who tend to suffer twice as many bouts in a year as adults. They are typically characterized by running noses and mild coughing. A small percentage may also suffer low-grade fevers. Cold infections are not usually airborne, but can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, or touching items that an infected person has left germs on.
- Flu – flu viruses tend to be considered more serious as the symptoms can be much more stressful to the immune system than colds. The symptoms often include high-grade fevers, chills, headaches, coughing, loss of appetite and body ache. A flu virus can also escalate into bronchitis or pneumonia, which can be life threatening. It can go airborne, where an infected person coughs. With the dry air of winter, the easier it becomes for the droplets to travel large distances and infect many people in an enclosed space, especially when the air conditioner or heater is running.
- Sore throat – this is another common viral infection. Winter causes humidity levels to drop. The dry air tends to aggravate the mucous membranes in the throat, especially when a child frequently experiences changes in temperature by moving back and forth between a cold and heated environment.
- Ear infections – this illness usually occurs at the same time as a cold. While not contagious, it can still be quite painful, especially to babies and toddlers. Ear infections are often accompanied by fever and the child may be very irritable. Frequently crying inconsolably and having trouble sleeping are very common at this time.
- Asthma – children with asthma tend to suffer most attacks during the winter period. The cold air is a strong trigger for attacks and often comes with shortness of breath and wheezing. Bundling up of children with asthma on especially chilly days is very important, along with ensuring they always carry their inhaler.
- Dry skin – this condition is often exacerbated during winter when humidity is at its lowest. Heated indoor areas tend to further add to the problem. Locking in moisture is the best way to go hence the recommended use of moisturizers, especially just after a warm bath.
- Norovirus – this virus is better known as the winter vomiting bug or stomach flu. It is an infectious stomach bug that tends to affect children and the elderly worst. It is usually characterized by frequent vomiting and diarrhea over no more than a couple of days. Hydration is very important with this illness.
- Hypothermia – this is when the body’s core temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius. Babies are vulnerable to this condition because their bodies are not yet able to regulate temperature. This problem can occur when a house is poorly heated, spending too much time outdoors in the cold, or falling in water. Symptoms include shivering, exhaustion and fast breathing. If left unchecked, it can lead to the person falling unconscious and dying.
When it comes to dealing with winter illnesses, prevention is always better than the cure. In fact, many of the actions you undertake to prevent these illnesses can also be a big help in alleviating the symptoms of those who are already sick.
Maintaining the same conditions and habits will only increase the chances of passing on the illnesses, or having the symptoms last longer than they should. Here are a few strategies to adopt in trying to put a stop to these wintertime troubles.
How To Keep Your Baby Healthy During Winter
- Cleanliness first – many of the viruses mentioned here tend to spread like wildfire in schools and homes because of secondhand contact with germs. It is important to teach your kids to thoroughly wash their hands before eating and after using the bathroom. If you already have a sick child in the home, try to keep them away from the others and disinfect all surfaces they come in contact with to reduce the risk of infecting others. Germs can linger days after the surface has been touched so be rigorous in your efforts.
- Bundle up – keeping well covered whenever you go out is very important when the cold front moves in. Even slight shivering can lower your immunity and make you more vulnerable to colds and flu. Pay special attention to the head, face and neck, as this is where most body heat escapes. Have your children wear mittens rather than gloves to encourage fingers sharing natural warmth. Loose fitting, lightweight layers should be worn over the body. In case of hypothermia, immediately stopping further heat loss and gently warming up the person should be urgently undertaken.
- Use humidifier– low humidity encourages the easier spread of airborne germs, aggravates the mucous membranes in the nose, throat and lungs, and encourages dry skin. The most effective way to combat these challenges when you have to spend most of your time indoors is to make use of a humidifier. Higher humidity will help weigh down airborne germs, soothe respiratory irritations and ease dry skin problems. Babies that have trouble sleeping often experience more comfort when humidifiers are run in their nurseries. Cool mist humidifiers are recommended over warm mist options because of the lower risk of burns from the child getting too close to the device. Some also come equipped with filtering features that purify the air by stripping it of mold, mildew and dust particles, before expelling clean vaporized air. These options are a good investment for children with allergy problems.
- Do not touch – cold and flu viruses are often spread through contact with germ-contaminated surfaces. Children often touch these surfaces and then bring the germs up to their face unconsciously. Training your child to avoid touching the face is a good way to reduce the risk of infection. At the same time, try to discourage them from sharing utensils like cups and spoons with others.
- Exercise – moderate exercise undertaken on a regular basis is a good idea so as to help keep your immune and other body system in good working order. Studies have shown that strict regimen can help reduce the occurrence of cold and flu infections by as much as half. Encourage your child to go out and play outside during warmer days, even if for a few minutes. When indoors, clear space for them to keep active. Even limited daily exposure to natural light can help to lift their moods and immune system. Be sure they however do not become overexerted, and if staying out long, have them come in often for a drink of water.
- Moisturize skin – dry skin is best treated topically for visible results. While it may be tempting to spend as much time as possible in the shower or bath, this can be counterproductive. Doctors recommend spending no more than ten minutes in the bath or shower and using warm rather than hot water. As soon as you dry off, with your skin being damp not wet, apply plenty of moisturizer. Use thicker creams that can provide a strong barrier to the dry air around. For those with dry skin problems, applying moisturizer more than once a day is a good idea.
- Hydrate – while it may seem unnecessary, it is important to ensure your child gets plenty of fluids during winter. Loss of moisture still occurs at this time, especially due to the low humidity levels and continuous exposure to heated air. Although not as taxing as on a hot summer day, losing fluids this way without replacement can cause dehydration to creep in. Being dehydrated weakens the immune system, and makes both children and adults vulnerable to the myriad of possible infections.
- Boost your diet – upping your fiber intake during winter is a good idea as it helps to ease inflammations and increases anti-inflammatory proteins in the system. Doctors recommend ensuring that children between the ages of 4-8 years should consume at least 25 grams of fiber each day. Also, boost their intake of foods rich in vitamins C and D that boost the immune system. Adding a daily serving of probiotics is also helpful to the body’s defense mechanism.
- Prevent re-infection- besides ensuring that you thoroughly disinfect the home after a bout of cold or flu, remember to also switch out your child’s toothbrush. Germs linger the longest here and can easily start up another round of illness. Stock up on new toothbrushes at wintertime just in case. Remember to also disinfect clothing, beddings and towels. Bamboo pillow is a good choice for your child because of its naturally hypoallergenic material. Hence, you need not to worry about dust mites and bacteria that cause allergies.
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