Beating the winter bugs

It’s quite common for children to have regular coughs and colds as they have immature immune systems and are more susceptible to viruses to which they have not yet developed immunity.  After all, it is estimated that more than 200 different viruses cause the common cold and your child can develop immunity to only one of them at a time!  If you think about all the colds, we as adults have had over our lifetimes and are likely still to catch, then it is unlikely any of us will ever be immune to the common cold!

Children and the Common Cold

As your baby grows, he or she will be interested in everything around them and will naturally begin to explore their environment which involves a lot of touching and licking!  Most flu and cold viruses are spread by direct contact so it is quite easy for a child to pick up a cold virus on their hands and then simply rub their eyes or put their fingers in their mouth and the virus will take hold.

On average, children under age 3 can catch up to six to eight colds a year.  Because your child cannot always tell you in time when they have a runny nose and you don’t always spot it immediately, then the virus can end up on their hands, clothing, and toys and sometimes even on furniture and bedding!  It is estimated that cold virus can live for approximately 30 minutes which explains how the virus can spread so quickly.  When another child touches an infected toy and then rubs their nose or eyes, then they are vulnerable to catching the cold as well.

When your child is in crèche, they may be susceptible to catching more colds as they are constantly mixing with other children. Good hand-washing hygiene for all the children and the staff team at crèche is essential as it is at home for your child and all the family to minimise the spread of the cold virus.

Children also catch colds more frequently in the autumn and winter months because cold air and indoor heating dry out their nasal membranes, making it easier for a cold virus to take hold.  Children also spend a lot more time inside where viruses can spread easily from person to person so it is important to ensure that children have fresh air daily and that their crèche and home environments are aired by simply opening a window and are regularly wiped down.

How should I treat my child’s cold?

No medicine will make a virus go away any faster, but you can help your child feel better and prevent the infection from getting worse by making sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids.

Granny was right: Chicken stew contains anti-inflammatory substances that may ease cold symptoms, it’s easy to digest and helps prevent children from becoming dehydrated, it feels soothing on a sore throat, and is liked by children.

Since most children don’t master nose blowing until about age 4, here are a few ways to help ease their congestion:

  • Moisten the air. Use a humidifier to keep your child’s nasal secretions more liquid or take your toddler into the bathroom with you, turn on the hot water, close the door, and sit in the steamy room for about 15 minutes. A warm bath can accomplish the same thing.
  • Elevate your child’s head. Raise the head of your child’s mattress by a few inches by putting a rolled towel under the end of the mattress. Never use pillows to prop up your toddler as they create a risk of suffocation.

Catching a common cold is something that happens to us all but we can make it easier for our children by helping to manage their symptoms and letting them get plenty of rest to build up their energy.   Children are generally not excluded from crèche if they have a mild head cold and a sniffle, however, if they have a high temperature, are lethargic and cranky, and generally unwell, then parents are advised to give their child some rest and TLC at home until they feel better.

Tips for preventing cold and flu this winter

  • Wash your hands.  Washing your hands and your child’s regularly with warm soapy water for at least 30 seconds will help protect you from germs. Or rub a hand sanitizer onto your hands.  Most crèches will have sanitizers for general use and have handwashing facilities in the toilets.
  • Get fresh air.  Regular fresh air is important for you and your children, especially in cold weather when central heating dries out the air. During the cold weather more people stay indoors, which means more germs are circulating in crowded, dry rooms.  Open the windows and air your home or wrap up well and go outdoors for a walk or to the park.
  • Relax and get plenty of rest.  Make sure your child gets enough sleep and rest as they will be better able to fight infection.
  • Eat healthily.  Encourage your child to eat plenty of fresh, healthy foods during the winter months to boost their immune system, especially dark green, red and yellow vegetables.  Make smoothies and include fruit in your child’s daily diet.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  Give your child plenty of fluids, especially water, so that they don’t dehydrate as their bodies will find it harder to fight infection.
  • Use a tissue. Show your child how to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing as germs and viruses cling to hands.

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