5 ways to keep your kids well this winter

27th Oct 2016

The temperature may be dropping, but their immunity doesn’t have to. Here’s how to help keep your little ones fighting fit.

1 Keep their hands clean

Handwashing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of germs – cold and flu viruses and tummy bugs.

Keep their nails short, and teach them from an early age the importance of a good handwashing.

A fun liquid soap dispenser can be an added incentive, or you could make up a song about handwashing to keep them amused.

Let them see everyone in the family washing their hands, especially after using the loo, and before eating and helping to prepare food.

There’s no need to buy special, antibacterial soap – ordinary soap is fine.

2 Don’t delay their flu vaccine

As healthy adults, we might think we could take a bout of flu in our stride, but it can be a horrible illness and particularly upsetting to see your children have it.

The goods news is you can protect your child against flu. The children’s flu vaccine is offered as a yearly nasal spray – it’s simple and painless.

Children aged two, three and four* will need to go to their GP practice, while those in Key Stage 1 (years 1, 2 and 3 – age five to eight)** are offered the flu vaccine at school (you’ll be contacted to give consent first).

Any child with a health condition that puts them at increased risk of flu, such as a heart or respiratory condition (e.g. asthma), is also eligible.

Don’t put it off.

The nasal spray has been given to millions of children worldwide, and has an excellent safety record.

If your child has flu, they could be ill for a week or more with a fever, stuffy nose, dry cough, sore throat, aches and extreme fatigue.

Some children develop an extremely high fever (sometimes without other usual symptoms) and need hospital treatment. Other serious complications for kids can include acute ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.

A survey by Netmums*** found that 40% of parents who choose not to have their two- to four-year-old child vaccinated said it was because they thought they were healthy.

In fact, children under the age of five have the highest hospital admission rates for flu compared to other age groups. So it’s important to vaccinate your child.

Talk to your GP, practice nurse or your child’s school nurse if you want more information about when and how your child will be vaccinated against flu. If you haven’t heard from their GP by early November 2016, contact them directly to make an appointment.

Serious side effects are rare; most commonly your child might experience a runny nose, headache, tiredness and some loss of appetite for a day or two.

Find out more about the flu vaccine here: http://www.nhs.uk/staywell/

*i.e. born between 1 September 2011 and 31 August 2014

**i.e. born between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2011

***Netmums surveyed 731 users between 26 and 27 September 2016.

3 Sneak in their five a day

Eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables is a sure-fire way to keep topped up with all the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy.

Five a day should be a minimum, although that’s easier said than done if your little ones have fussy tendencies.

Breakfast smoothies, homemade fruit kebabs and stewed fruit compotes (mix with yoghurt or custard) are a good way to make new varieties fun.

4 Be active and get outdoors

Exercise is a known immunity booster and children under five need at least three hours of activity, spread throughout a day.

From age five to 18 they need an hour’s aerobic activity each day, which means at least moderate-intensity to breathe hard and break a sweat.

This isn’t always easy to do, especially in the winter, but how about a walk or cycle to school? Why not join a weekend sports club? This ensures commitment to a team and regular exercise.

It’s important to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible and you’ll all benefit from the mood-boosting effects of daylight, fresh air and being in nature. Plus less time together in centrally heated, stuffy rooms stops sniffles spreading.

But, if it’s a rainy day stuck at home, play active indoors games like building obstacle courses or maybe a bit of dancing.

5 Give them daily vitamins

It can be hard to make sure your growing kids have all the vital nutrients they need, especially if they’re fussy eaters.

And it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D through food alone.

So the Department of Health recommends all children aged six months to five years are given a supplement of vitamins A, C and D daily (unless they’re still having more than 500ml infant formula a day).

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