Winter can be a difficult time for children when it comes to their health. Illnesses, staying active and adjusting back to school schedules after winter break can make staying well tough. These tips can help keep your family healthy through winter.
Get good sleep
One of the best things kids can do as a preventative measure or to recover quickly is to practice good sleep hygiene. This means establishing habits that promote a good night’s sleep.
One of the biggest culprits that interferes with good sleep are technology. TVs, computers, tablets and phones, all emit a blue light that stimulates the brain’s internal clock with the signal that it is time to be awake.
“A good rule of thumb is to turn off the screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime and remove electronics from the bedroom,” said Dr. William Bowerfind, a Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine physician at The Oregon Clinic. “Avoiding caffeine (including chocolate) within six hours of bedtime and avoiding large meals two hours before bed can also help you get a better night’s sleep.”
Prevent ear infections
Kids under five-years-old are generally more susceptible to ear infections than adults. The ear drainage system that runs from the ear to the back of the nose (the eustachian tube) is shorter and more horizontal in children, making it easier for the tube to collapse, causing a vacuum to develop in the middle ear. That vacuum draws in fluid from surrounding tissue, which can then become infected.
“Pain, fever, disrupted sleep and temporary hearing loss from fluid behind the ear drum can make children miserable,” said Dr. Bobak Ghaheri, Ear Nose & Throat physician at The Oregon Clinic. “While ear infections often go away without intervention, you should monitor your child for 48 hours from the onset of the symptoms and provide pain relief if needed. If symptoms are not improving after that time frame, you should see a doctor.”
While it may seem obvious, appropriate hygiene can keep kids healthier throughout the winter. Frequent handwashing, covering up sneezes and coughs and maintaining appropriate nutrition can help keep families healthier once one child gets ill. Keeping the nose clean using a sinus rinse or nasal saline spray can also alleviate congestion which can often impede normal eustachian tube function.
There’s a lot to gain from getting physical activity. When kids are active, they build strong muscles and bones, decrease the risk of disease and can even benefit from increased self-esteem and academic motivation.
Choosing the right activities for your child’s age can encourage them to stay active. Indoor winter activities like ice skating or team sports like soccer or volleyball can help motivate kids to focus on the fun rather than on the exercise.