The winter season is both a season of warmth and joy — and colds, respiratory infections, automobile accidents and the dreaded flu.
While not all unpleasantness can be avoided this season — like your great aunt’s fruitcake — there are some ways you can improve your chances for a safe, healthy holiday.
1. Don’t forget their coats.
Kids can be forgetful, and schools and daycare centers have boxes full of left-behind coats and jackets. But making sure your child is properly dressed for the weather is important. It’s not that being exposed to the cold and moisture of winter makes you sick, but that the cold and moisture can weaken the immune system and give bacteria and viruses an opportunity to settle in. When outdoors, dress children in layers so they can stay comfortable in even the most miserable conditions.
2. Press the importance of hand hygiene.
Children do things that make the rest of us grimace, like gobbling down a hunk of a gingerbread house that their whole class touched while building. One of the best and simplest ways to avoid getting sick over the winter is to frequently and thoroughly wash our hands. Encourage them to wash their hands with soap in clean running water for at least 20 seconds — about how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” You can get them in the habit of going to the restroom and washing their hands before every meal or every time they come in the house.
3. Get them a flu shot.
We’re several months into flu season now, but it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Children can get one at their primary care provider’s office or at any Tanner Urgent Care location. Even if they still get the flu after the shot, research has shown that the symptoms tend to be less severe and pass faster if they’ve been immunized against the flu.
4. Travel safely.
Automobile accidents tend to increase over the holidays for a variety of reasons, from more time spent on the road to more distractions. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to ensure your child’s safety in the car, including using seat belt — no matter how short the trip — and ensuring the driver avoids alcohol altogether at seasonal parties and events. Make sure your children are secure in their safety seats, and remember to take babies and toddlers out of their heavy winter coats before fastening them in. You can use their coat to cover them like a blanket, but children can slip out of their heavy coats — and their safety restraints — in a collision.
5. Don’t expose them to second-hand smoke.
Even if you’re not a tobacco user, others at family and social events might be. It’s OK to tell someone not to use tobacco around your child — his or her health is your responsibility. Besides the long-term risks, tobacco smoke irritates the respiratory system, increasing the risk for infection.
6. Watch them!
There’s a lot to be said for knowing what your kids are up do, no matter how old they are. Keep potentially dangerous items — including holiday decorations that could be toxic or feature small pieces that might be swallowed — out of the reach of younger children. Ask older children where they’re going to be, who they’re going to be with and what time they’ll be home. Keeping them accountable not only gives you piece of mind, but shows them that you care and might help deter risky behaviors.
Tanner Healthcare for Children, a Tanner Medical Group practice, has offices in Bremen, Carrollton and Villa Rica. For more information, visit TannerHealthcareforChildren.org or call 770-812-8640.