Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 11:08 am
During the colder months of the year, staying healthy is always a challenge. Having a bug ‘go around’ is almost expected. But when you have a child, especially a newborn, keeping them well in winter can be a concern.
Keep things clean
The first step to keeping you, your baby and your whole family well is practising good hygiene and cleanliness. Keeping yourselves and your environment clean will work to fight the germs that easily spread. So wash hands regularly – theirs and yours – and clean toys and surfaces. Sterilise the things that your baby is likely to place in their mouth. But don’t go too crazy… they do need to build a little resistance to germs.
It may sound obvious, but try to stay away from sick people and don’t hand your baby to anyone who is ill. Keep them close to your body in a sling or carrier to stop people picking them up, and ask people to wash their hands if they are going to hold the baby.
Equally you may want to avoid using a dummy as these can carry more infections, plus the pressure they cause may upset sinuses and increase chances of ear infections.
Sometimes the answer is as simple as ensuring that all vaccinations are up to date.Once children are six months old, a yearly flu shot may be an option and you should check with your doctor to see if these are needed.
Keeping your child’s vaccinations up to date ensures that they avoid many diseases that would have been deadly in the past, so make sure you know that they are immunised and safe.
Regarding other medication, it is best to use antibiotics with caution, as, unless they are really needed (for bacterial, not viral infections), they will not work, and can encourage bacterial resistance.
Give them a head start
Breastfeeding, if you can, is one of the fastest and simplest ways to give your baby the best immunity and nourishment possible. A healthy diet once they start on solids will continue the good work and set lifelong habits for health and nutrition. Be sure to supplement a good diet with lots of time to sleep and play, and good health will be the reward.
Keep them warm
Keeping babies warm is crucial, but isn’t always easy. Socks and hats fall off, they wiggle out of clothes and if they’re on the floor, it’s all too easy for them to get caught in a breeze. Try to keep newborns in an environment with a steady temperature, as they find it difficult to regulate their own body heat. A good rule for winter newborns is to dress them in one more layer than you yourself are wearing, such as an extra baby grow, swaddle or blanket.
Going outside is a great way to reduce illness. You would be amazed at the good a little fresh air can do. It’s not healthy to spend all day stuck in a stuffy, airless indoor space. So bundle up little ones and let them see the outside. Any vitamin D they get will be good for them.
However, remember to avoid overheating, as this can be just as unhealthy as being cold. If you’re going indoors from the cold, be sure to remove thick blankets – at least temporarily – to keep temperatures comfortable and safe.
When they do get sick
Some sicknesses need to be caught at least once in a lifetime for your little one to build up an immunity. Though it’s difficult to see them sick, many illnesses are better to go through during childhood than adulthood, and often sickness is unavoidable if there are other children in the house. Getting sick is a part of growing up, no matter how hard you work to prevent it.
But there are many ways to ease your baby’s symptoms:
- Use saline nose drops to thin mucous and congestion.
- Use a humidifier or vaporiser at night to ease coughs and aid sleep.
- Provide lots of fluids; from breast milk, to water for slightly older children, or even foods containing lots of liquid, like fruit. If a baby takes less than half of their normal feed amount over 24 hours, take them to a doctor as dehydration can occur quickly. Loss of interest in food can also be a sign of other illnesses.
- Know when they need a doctor. In a baby younger than six weeks old, look out for fevers as they are a sign of infection, and are unusual in children so young. Equally unresponsiveness, floppiness, extra tiredness and coughing in young babies should be checked. If you’re not sure, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
- Comfort them. Just being there does a lot! When kids are sick, they don’t understand what’s going on, feel horrible and just want the comfort of mom or dad to make them feel better. Even if you feel you can do nothing, you’re helping a lot.
Author note: This article was written by Suzanne Gibbard from Bundles of Joy in the UK – a company which sells christening gifts. Suzanne has three children and knows well the hazards winter can inflict on our children’s health.