7 tips and tricks to keep your baby healthy in winter
We show you how to beat the bugs and keep your little one cold-free over this season
The sniffle season is here and if you have little ones, the chances are they (and you) will be struck down at least once. On average, children get six to ten colds a year because their immune systems haven’t matured and are still building defences against bugs they encounter.
So if you don’t fancy spending the winter in a sea of snot again this year, give our cold-busting tips and tricks a try.
Do let the air in
Any enclosed space makes the perfect environment for passing bugs between people – but cars are the worst as you’re in such close proximity to each other. According to research at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, if you’re sitting in a modern car (these are very well sealed) for 90 minutes with someone who has flu, your chance of catching that bug is 99.9 per cent. ‘But that falls to 20 per cent if you open the windows,’ says the university’s Professor Lidia Morawska.
Don't rely on sanitiser
Every mum has hand sanitiser in her bag and yes, it’s brilliant for killing bacteria. But colds and flu are caused by viruses and the jury’s still out on how well sanitiser combats these. In one ten-week trial, 12 people using hand sanitiser caught a cold, compared to 15 non-users. Washing your hands with soap and water is the best defence.
Do sneeze properly
In Australia and New Zealand, the SneezeSafe programme uses glitter and soap bubbles to show kids how bugs spread by touching or sneezing. One useful trick they teach is the Dracula Sneeze – sneezing into the crook of your elbow like Dracula hiding behind his cape. You don’t touch anything with this, so bugs are less likely to spread than if you sneeze in your hand.
Don't dose them up
Many of us grew up using over-the-counter cold medication but in 2009, considering that colds are usually short-lived and rarely harmful, regulators stopped recommending them for smaller children. ‘The best way to treat a cold is to ensure the child has plenty of rest and sleep, and that they are kept warm and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration,’ says pharmacist Niamh McMillan. ‘If they have a mild fever and are over three months, paracetamol can help reduce it. If symptoms don’t improve after a few weeks, or worsen, we’d recommend you see your GP.’
Do keep an eye out
In most cases, colds and flu will clear up in a few days. But Dr Di Cuffa says it’s still important to keep an eye on coldy kids – just in case their symptoms have another cause. ‘Babies can’t tell you how they feel but you can learn to identify red flags like high temperature, rapid breathing rate, cool extremities, crying, persistent drowsiness, being off their food or having dry nappies. See your GP if your baby has any of these.’ Keep an eye out for rashes too.
Don't skip the flu jab
While colds are harmless, flu can be a problem – not only does it make you feel considerably worse, but it can be very serious for some people, who are recommended to have the vaccination. Here’s a guide to who can have it for free on the NHS.
Babies: Tots over six months can have the NHS flu vaccine (given in a nasal spray) if they have a long-term health condition such as low immunity.
Toddlers: Children between two and three on 31 August 2017 (so born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2015). Children in reception years 1-4 are also eligible.
Do have hot drinks
Research from the (now closed) Common Cold Research Centre at Cardiff University led by Professor Ron Eccles found hot drinks to be an underrated cold soother. In his trial, drinking blackcurrant cordial with hot water relieved symptoms including runny nose, sore throats and coughs within 15 minutes. Even better, though, is chicken soup, which actually reduces inflammation of the respiratory tract.
Words Helen Foster