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Kids always sick? How to protect against winter bugs

Author: Paediatric ICU Nurse, Charlotte Young.

As parents, it's common to feel like your child is always sick, especially during the daycare years. With the winter bugs suddenly hitting, illnesses like RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and other bugs seem to spread super quickly among young children. While it can be stressful and exhausting, there are some simple ways to reduce the frequency and severity of these illnesses by supporting your child's immune system.

Here are some evidence-based tips to keep your little ones healthier this season:

1.Hand washing and cleaning surfaces

One of the most common ways children catch bugs is through touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their faces. Encourage frequent hand washing with soap and water, especially after blowing noses or using the bathroom. Parents should also wash their hands frequently and clean commonly touched surfaces regularly.

2. Keeping sick people away!

Keeping your child away from other sick people is key to stopping them also getting sick. Most respiratory bugs are highly contagious in the first 2-4 days of symptoms, and gastro bugs can spread as long as they have diarrhea. Making sure you’re children stay away from other sick people during these periods can significantly reduce of them getting sick from them.

3. Optimising nutrition

A well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is key to keeping their immune system ready to step up and fight. Make sure your child gets plenty of vitamins A and C, zinc, and selenium. While supplements are not always necessary, a diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help make sure they have all the nutrients they need.

4. Staying hydrated

Hydration plays a key role in keeping the nose and its defences (yes we mean snot!) primed for defending against viruses. This snot is actually one of our first line of defenses against respiratory bugs. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to keep these membranes moist and functional.

5. Outdoor play

Spending time outdoors can reduce stress levels and help maintain adequate vitamin D levels, both of which are important for a healthy immune system. Fresh air and physical activity also contribute to overall well-being.

6. Maintaining a warm and dry home

Cold and damp environments are breeding grounds for germs, which thrive and spread more easily in such conditions. Ensure your home is warm and dry to help your child stay healthy. Additionally, keeping your child warm allows their body to focus energy on fighting infections rather than staying warm.

7. Getting enough sleep

Getting a good amount of sleep is essential for a strong immune system. Our little ones need plenty of rest to repair and build their body's defences. If your child is a poor sleeper and getting sick all the time, this might be a sign they need some extra sleep support. Quality sleep helps the body fight off infections more effectively and recover faster if they do get sick.

8. Keeping up with immunisations

Immunisations are a crucial part of preventing serious illnesses such as whooping cough, meningococcal and measles. Make sure your child is up-to-date with their immunizations to protect against diseases that can have severe consequences. Many vaccine-preventable illnesses can lead to hospitalisation or even death, so timely vaccinations are vital.

Charlotte and Teresa are Paediatric Nurses supporting families with first aid education, both online and in-person. To find out more about the courses they offer click here.

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