When the air outside starts to get crisper, the temperature drops and you feel the urge to reach for a sweater, do you automatically start to worry about catching cold? Now that you have a child, do you warn him or her that they could get sick if they spend too much time exposed to the elements? What is the real connection between cold weather and illness in children?
Oddly enough, colds and flus are more common in colder months than warmer months, but that doesn’t mean the culprit is the temperature. It is true that cold viruses peak in spring and fall and flu viruses peak in winter.
When it’s cold outside, we tend to spend more time inside. More people in close proximity to each other allows for viruses like the cold and flu to spread more easily from person to person. Some people blame central heating for drying out nasal passages, making it easier for these germs to “stick” to you. Whether or not this is true, rooms with poor ventilation do breed more illnesses than rooms with better ventilation.
But what about when you’re outside? Apparently brief periods of exposure to cold weather without a jacket can boost immunity by causing increased circulation in your body. However, full-on hypothermia does cause decreased immunity, but it isn’t something you get from carefully managed time outdoors—regardless of the temperature.
As children under 5 are at higher risk than most other groups for the flu, it makes sense that you would want to take precautions to protect your child during winter flu outbreaks. So what are some ways you can protect your child from colds and flus, regardless of the temperature outside?
- Teach effective hand washing methods.
- Encourage your child to cover his or her mouth when he sneezes or coughs.
- Serve a healthy diet full of nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables.
- Have your child drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Teach your child not to share food, beverages and personal items that may spread bacteria from host to host.
Now that you know the links between cold weather and illness, you can be better prepared when the weather changes.