The cold weather is upon us, so take extra precautions to protect your child from winter illnesses.
In this article:
- What Are the Common Winter Illnesses?
- Who Is at Risk?
- Where Do They Catch It?
- When Do We Go to the Doctor?
- Why Are There Winter Illnesses?
- How Do We Prevent and Treat Winter Illnesses?
Understanding and Preventing Common Childhood Winter Illnesses
What Are the Common Winter Illnesses?
Common winter illnesses in children include the common cold, bronchiolitis, influenza, croup, pneumonia, and strep throat. It may get confusing because the different illnesses share common symptoms. Here’s how to differentiate each:
- Common Cold is caused by a viral infection. Children who caught a cold will often present with a runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, or a headache. They may also get a low-grade fever early on.
- Bronchiolitis is a viral respiratory infection that causes low-grade fevers, nasal congestion, cough, and wheezing. More severe cases of bronchiolitis can lead to breathing problems and dehydration.
- Influenza is more commonly known as the flu. The symptoms of the flu include a high fever, sore throat, cough, headache, and muscle aches. A fever caused by the flu can last up to 5 days.
- Croup is also caused by a virus. It affects children’s respiratory system and is characterized by a barking cough, a raspy voice, and harsh breathing noise. The symptoms seem to worsen at night. Croup does not normally cause fevers.
- Pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection. It can start with cold-like symptoms that worsen instead of getting better. Or, it can seem like the child has gotten better but then they get sick again. High fevers, worsening cough, or breathing difficulties can mean your child has pneumonia.
- Strep Throat symptoms include a sore throat, headache, and a stomach ache. In some cases, it may be accompanied by a high fever or vomiting. Children with strep throat shouldn’t experience other cold symptoms or coughing.
Who Is at Risk?
Bronchiolitis is more commonly seen in children who are under a year old, while strep throat is more common among school-aged children. In general, children of any age and adults alike can catch any of these winter illnesses, but babies and children are more likely to get sick because of their developing immune systems.
Babies who were born prematurely with lung problems or with congenital heart conditions are also more likely to experience complications from winter illnesses.
Where Do They Catch It?
What are the causes of illness in children? It is usually the transmission of the virus from one individual to another, whether through catching the virus in the air or hand contact with someone who has the virus.
Children can easily infect other children because they forget to sneeze into a tissue or cover their mouths when they cough. Viruses can also survive up to 48 hours on surfaces and other objects. So if no one is sick at home, schools and common play areas are usually where children can catch winter illnesses.
When Do We Go to the Doctor?
It’s always best to consult your doctor so that they can help diagnose your child’s winter illness. The common cold, bronchiolitis, the flu, and croup can usually be successfully treated at home.
If you suspect your child has pneumonia or strep throat, it’s best to see your doctor right away because your child might need to start antibiotic treatment. Regardless of their illness, go to your doctor as soon as you can if your child is experiencing any breathing difficulties, shows signs of dehydration, or has persisting high fever.
RELATED: Dry Skin In Children: Causes And Treatment
Why Are There Winter Illnesses?
Does cold weather make you sick? The cold in itself does not make you sick. Germs and viruses are the usual culprits when it comes to winter illnesses. There are certain viruses that peak during winter time. For instance, the Rhinovirus replicates better when it’s colder.
What is the Rhinovirus? “Rhino” refers to the nose. This is the virus that causes the common cold. It can also cause a sore throat, sinus infections, and ear infections.
Certain habits we have formed to cope with the cold can also make us more prone to winter illnesses. For example, we’re more likely to spend time indoors where we can enjoy central heating. Central heating often makes the air dryer and viruses survive longer when the air is dry.
How Do We Prevent and Treat Winter Illnesses?
Here are a few things you and your family can do to prevent sickness:
- Remind your family to wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water. They can make it a habit to wash their hands as soon as they get home and before meals.
- Clean common tabletops, high chairs, and toys regularly. Don’t forget to clean stroller covers, seat covers, and car seat covers, too.
- Avoid contact with other adults or children who have cold-like symptoms. In the same way, keep your sick child at home.
- Air out your home by opening a window once a day. Fresh air will counteract the dry air caused by central heating.
- Make sure everyone’s vaccines are up to date. Babies and toddlers have standard immunization schedules, while older children and adults can get their yearly flu shot.
Getting sick is sometimes unavoidable, no matter how careful you are. It’s important to let your child rest when they are sick. You can help make them comfortable by:
- Offering plenty of fluids to keep them hydrated
- Using saline drops/sprays to decongest
- Keeping the air moist with a humidifier
- Using a nose suction on infants or toddlers to help clear out the nasal passages
- Keeping children upright when they have coughing bouts to help them breathe easier
If your child is uncomfortable because of the fever, ask your doctor if you can give them fever-reducing medication. Again, if it seems like your child is having any trouble breathing, go to your doctor right away.
Your child may need more medicines depending on the illness. It’s always best to consult your doctor before treating your child.
Avoid illness this winter season. Check out these tips on keeping children healthy in this video from Work Life Glue:
Winter illnesses can be bothersome, especially if it’s your little one who’s caught the bug. Don’t let the cold get you down! Understanding the symptoms and treatment of winter illnesses will help you keep you and your child healthy.
Do you have anything to add to this list of common illnesses in kids during winter time? Let us know in the comments section.