Winter seems to bring with it coughs, chills, and all sorts of ailments and illnesses, and our little ones tend to bear the brunt of them. What can you do to keep your family healthy?
Give their immune system a boost
Vitamins and minerals can help children to get the nutrients which are lacking in their diets, and can also have a beneficial effect when it comes to warding off illness. Some which may help strengthen your children’s immune systems are vitamin C, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin A, iron, and vitamin D. Look for natural sources of these vitamins in fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy.
Note »If you’re giving your children vitamin supplements, talk to your GP about the appropriate quantity they should have.
You can’t actually catch a cold simply from popping out to the letterbox without your jacket on a damp day, but it’s true that viruses are more easily spread in colder temperatures, so it pays to keep your home well-heated and your children dressed in warm clothing when they’re out and about, especially when playing outside with other children (where they may “catch a cold” from a playmate!). Cold and damp also exacerbate illness, which means your children will be sicker for longer.
Eat healthy foods
A breakfast of porridge or fruit and yoghurt rather than sugary cereal; fresh vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, beans, and kumara; and snacks like apples or almonds rather than chips will help give your child natural sources of vitamins and minerals that can help keep them healthy. Choose fresh, seasonal foods and pack healthy lunches, and include “superfoods” to help maximise their health. Visit totstoteens.co.nz and search for “You are what you eat” for more information on superfoods.
If your children are sick, please keep them at home. This is always difficult for parents who work outside of the home, as paid sick time is so limited. But children really are better off if they’re able to rest in a warm, relaxed environment where their bodies can start to repair themselves – and where they’re not continuing to be exposed to other children who may also be sick, thus prolonging the cycle of illness.
Children, especially babies and toddlers, spend a lot of time with their hands in or near their mouths: Thumb-sucking, “mouthing” toys, and feeding themselves with their fingers. Teach children to keep their hands away from their mouths, eyes, and noses – no mean feat when you’re dealing with a youngster, we know! Also keep clean those things which your child will put in their mouth, like dummies, toys, sippy cups, and bottles, and keep their hands washed to try to prevent the spread of germs. Wipe down doorknobs and door handles, and encourage eating with spoons and forks rather than fingers.
Got your flu jab?
Each year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) studies the different strains of influenza, monitoring their global movement and determining which strains of the virus are likely to emerge in different parts of the world. Yearly flu vaccines are based on this information, and they work by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies which will protect against the circulating viruses. Because the strains of flu differ each year, it’s important to get an updated flu virus each year. The vaccine is licensed for children over the age of six months. For children aged between six months and 15 months, the vaccine is injected into the upper thigh; for children and adults it is injected into the upper arm. Until 31 July, the flu jab is free for over-65s, pregnant women, children under the age of four who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness, and people under the age of 65 who have certain conditions or diseases (check influenza.org.nz for a full list). You can get the flu jab from your GP and also from some A+Es and pharmacies.
We asked our online community for their advice on keeping the winter bugs at bay.
“My friend makes strawberry vinegar mixed with hot water (half and half). It makes an excellent natural sore throat remedy, especially for under sixes. For sniffles I also put Vicks Vaporub on the soles of the feet (covered with socks), the chest, and back – always works a treat!”~MICHELLE
“Take two cups of water in a saucepan and boil it. Add a two-inch piece of ginger, then add two or three cloves and a stick of cinnamon. Boil it till the water reduces to half, then cool to lukewarm and pour in a cup. Add one teaspoon of honey (or according to taste if giving it to kids). It is very good for cold, flu, and coughs.” ~NIDA
“In our house, Mr Four likes to enjoy the finer things in life! Over winter we make up herbal teas like lemon and ginger and honey, peppermint, or chamomile before bed. His favourite part is having it in his own small teapot and teacup. Not only is it great for rehydrating, but we always change up the flavour combos or tailor it to our health needs. It’s a great quiet-time activity and is always quality ‘tea time’!” ~REBECCA
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