How to Keep Kids Healthy this Winter
By Dr. Piyumi Fonseka, Annapolis Pediatrics
As the weather gets colder, we get excited about snow days and hot chocolate but dread the start of cold and flu season, now more so than ever during this current pandemic. For some parents, this has felt like an uphill battle during the last two years but there are some tips that can help parents protect their kid’s health.
Good Handwashing Technique
Practice with your kids and demonstrate this yourself with handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, prior to eating, and after coming home from school to name a few. It is best to use soap and water to get a thorough hand washing but if soap is not available, it is ok to use an alcohol based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Show them the proper technique and steps: wet with water, lather with soap, scrub, rinse and dry. Make it fun and easy for them to remember how long to wash for, 20 seconds is perfect for singing the Happy Birthday song twice or singing their ABC’s twice.
Masking and Social Distancing
Covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough has always been an important part of protecting others from germs, and they think its hilarious when you tell them to pretend like they are a vampire and sneeze into the inside of their elbows (if there are no tissues available). Now, many of our kids have become accustomed to wearing a mask in the last two years. Wearing a well fitted mask, that covers their mouth and nose, is a great way to protect our little ones from germs especially in crowded situations. Kids do remarkably well with masking even as young as two years old. Get them a fun print or their favorite color or character and praise them often for wearing it.
Continue to follow COVID protocols as we are currently in another surge of the pandemic but also in Flu, RSV and cold season. Social distance when possible and try to avoid crowded situations, especially with your little ones that are unvaccinated.
One of the most important things we can do for our children is vaccinate them. We know that there are many childhood diseases that are highly preventable with vaccination, so keep up with your child’s regular well visits and keep them up to date on their vaccine schedule. Keeping up with your families yearly flu shot is incredibly important as well to protect them from getting very sick or even hospitalized. This year, the COVID vaccine was made available to children over 5 and all adults. During the summer, we saw a significant difference in hospitalizations and COVID outcomes based on vaccination. As this current variant is spreading more easily, vaccination is the best way to protect ourselves and our families from severe illness, hospitalizations and death.
In addition to keeping up with your kids vaccinations, it is also important to stay on track with their yearly physicals. This gives you the opportunity to ask questions about your child’s development, growth, and address any questions you might have. Tracking their growth and examining them gives us the ability to tackle any issues that may come up and intervene early if needed.
Some of the most important things we can do for our children and ourselves is making time for sleep, exercise and good nutrition. A good night’s rest is especially important when our kids are in school all day. Establish a bedtime routine for them but don’t forget about yourself! Parents are perpetually exhausted with trying to balance kids, work, household duties and often forget about self-care. Make sure to find time to take care of yourself as well, get good sleep, eat a well balanced diet and get out an be active with your family. Good nutrition is essential to keeping your body and mind functioning. It is often tough to get yourself out and moving during these cold winter but feels so good once you get outside. Bundle up and take a walk with the family, play in the snow, or just have races in the yard.
This is quite a challenging time in our lives. Now, more than ever, parents are feeling overwhelmed with the thought of keeping their kids healthy. Kids will catch colds and get sick despite our best efforts but they are also far more resilient than we give them credit for and generally do well with most viral illnesses. Take time to make healthy habits together as a family and talk about your mental health as well. Give yourself some grace and remember, we are all doing our best.
For 70 years, Annapolis Pediatrics has provided superior healthcare to infants, children, adolescents, and young adults in Annapolis and the surrounding communities. In some cases, they have cared for three generations of families. They strive to provide high quality medical care, from excellent clinical care to a positive customer experience for their patients and their parents.
They have over 30 physicians and nurse practitioners in 5 locations: Annapolis, Crofton, Edgewater, Severna Park, and Kent Island, with a 6th location planned to open in Pasadena, MD in the spring of 2022.
For more health tips, updates and articles, visit annapolispediatrics.com.