It’s the season of sniffles – runny noses, tickle-y coughs, headaches and explosive sneezes. Yes, the common cold is on the prowl once more and children are particularly prone to colds as they are in contact with lots of other children on a regular basis through schools, nurseries and playgroups.
The cold is a viral infection of the respiratory tract and it can last from 4-10 days. There are a huge number of viruses which cause colds (thought to number more than 200) which is why it’s almost impossible for children to build up resistance to the cold, but how can you ensure your children don’t suffer too much this winter?
First of all, good hygiene is important for preventing colds. It’s difficult with children because of the amount of play they do indoors and out and the contact they have with others, but lead by example and make sure they are washing their hands after going to the toilet and before meals.
Secondly, a good diet helps to prevent colds or it will at least minimise the severity of a cold as a good diet helps to build up the immune system. Children should be eating a healthy mix of protein, such as chicken, eggs, meat and fish, dairy products, plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains such as wholemeal bread and pasta or barley, and healthy fats such as nuts and oily fish.
Steer Clear of Sugar
Too much sugar in the form of sweets, puddings and fizzy drinks, or refined carbohydrates such as cakes, pastries and crisps can depress the body’s immune function and make them more prone to illness.
Extra Vitamin C is a good idea for the winter months through dietary additions such as fresh oranges, berries (use frozen ones if fresh aren’t available), grapefruit and kiwi fruit, broccoli and red peppers. A fresh fruit salad or a sauce for pasta which uses puréed veg are two simple ways you can add extra Vitamin C to the diet.
If you smoke, don’t smoke in the car and don’t smoke in your home so that your children aren’t exposed to the effects of passive smoking.
Fresh Air and Exercise
And finally fresh air and exercise is good for children in general and good for their immune systems. Children need to experience some dirt and bacteria as this allows their immune systems to practice fighting off threats, so a little outdoor dirt is good for them.
Recent studies have found a link between healthy immune systems and regular moderate exercise. If your children are running around outside or playing on wooden climbing frames, this moderate exercise makes the white blood cells move more quickly round the body and makes them more efficient at attacking and killing bacteria and viruses.
All in all, colds prevention is an excellent reason why you don’t need to pack away your wooden climbing frames, swing sets and trampolines or make them out of bounds for winter. An hour or so of running around outside, clambering over wooden structures and swinging and sliding furiously will contribute to their good health this winter.