Winter Wellbeing

Christmas, holidays and festive cheer but also cold weather, bugs and illnesses.
Here's how you and your children can stay well and enjoy the season.

It's the time when one winter bug follows another, and coughs and sniffles seem to be the order of the day.
As parents, we focus on doing all we can to boost our children's immunity. We try to keep them from falling ill and when they're ill, we're nursing them so they recover soon.

These winter health tips can help us and our children alike to stay healthy and enjoy the festive season.

"Winter is a season of recovery and preparation"
Paul Theroux
Child sleeping

Tank up on plenty of sleep

Sleep is food for the brain and key no matter what time of year it is. A good night’s sleep is crucial for body and mind.
During deep non-REM sleep, the body's energy is restored, growth and repair occurs and important brain development takes place. Depending on their age, kids need eight to twelve hours sleep a night and adults, eight hours.
Maintaining a routine always helps. Nursery, school, outdoor and indoor activities, a good diet, and no screen time before bedtime will do the trick.
Here's a sleep guide for parents of five to eleven year olds.
The lead-up and routine around your child’s bedtime is referred to as ’sleep hygiene’.
The NHS and Great Ormond Street Hospital offer great advice on sleep hygiene.

 

Various healthy foods

Eat a balanced diet

A varied and balanced diet means a strong immune system.
Make sure your children are eating a rainbow selection of fruits and vegetables and eating at least five portions a day.
The NHS has helpful guidelines on what to feed children.
A balanced diet should ideally contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals as we and our children need them to stay healthy.
Vitamin A, C, D and E are great for reducing infections as well as being powerful antioxidants.
They are recommended as supplements particularly for young children. 
Most importantly, in order to get your children to enjoy their food, you need to set an example.
Children follow our lead, so we need to eat and enjoy balanced meals ourselves.
Also make eating fun by making cooking fun. Get creative with your recipes and make up cool names for food.
And finally, here are some healthy meal and snack recipes for children.
At the same time, remember not to let them binge on bad carbohydrates as winter makes us all crave for sweets and comfort food.
Limit your children's sugar intake as sugar can weaken their immune system. As a result, kids who eat lots of sugar become likely candidates for winter illnesses.

Mother and son

Stay physically and mentally active

Shorter days and reduced sunlight can dampen the spirits but that's more the reason to go outdoors and exercise.
Wrap up warm and get great lungfuls of winter fresh air by doing lots of sports and other physical activities.
Winter sports improve your and your child's immunity and keep the blues at bay. They also keep your endorphin (feel good hormones) levels high, and cortisol (stress hormones) levels low. 
A great way to do this is to exercise as a family, exercise consistently and make it fun. These could be long walks in nature, a family run, bike rides, winter scavenger hunts, winter picnics, star gazing, indoor swimming, cleaning your garden or just playing games in the garden.
For days when it's very windy, raining heavily and wrapping up warm and going out isn’t feasible, you could play group indoor games and put on music and dance.
Table tennis, indoor tennis, badminton, chess, board-games, the options are many. 
Cozying up and watching a movie and sensible TV and screen viewing are also wonderful activities.
Getting your children to also help with household chores such as vacuum cleaning, emptying the dishwasher and tidying up the house can get them moving and staying active.

Boy drinking water

Stay hydrated and stay clean

With lower temperatures and less sweating, kids generally don't feel so thirsty in winter but it’s important that they drink lots of water.
Water carries nutrients to cells, aids digestion and flushes toxins away.
Other than water, you could also snuggle up with them with a hot lemon and honey drink, warm apple juice, a drink with fresh mint and honey, soups and warm herbal teas. Here are some tips on what beverages are good for the winter and what are not.
It's also very important to regularly wash hands to keep the bugs at bay.
Make it a rule that they wash their hands for twenty seconds with warm water and soap not only before mealtimes but every time they cough or sneeze, touch a pet, the bin, handles or doors used by others.

Washing hands

Stress on hygiene

With colds and coughs on the increase, keep disposable tissues and disinfecting wipes always at the ready.
Remind your children to cover their mouths when coughing and immediately throw away dirty and used tissues.
Another important tip for good hygiene is to change your children's toothbrush at the beginning of winter and when they recover from an illness.
Germs often hide in the bristles of toothbrushes, leading to infections and illnesses.
Also, while most winter illnesses clear up on their own after a few days, some can turn into more serious medical issues.
Contact your doctor right away if your child exhibits any of the following symptoms:
A very high persisting fever
Persisting sore throat combined with a fever
Vomiting and diarrhea
Wheezing, asthma and trouble breathing.
Always keep adequate medicines at home but always consult your doctor and pharmacy before you give them to your child.
The NHS has plenty of useful tips on the subject.

 

And finally...

Between winter festivities and parties, traveling to visit friends and family, and shopping for holiday gifts, winter is a busy time.
Children’s immune systems tend to weaken amid all the hustle and bustle.
On top of all the tips listed above, encourage your children to take time to relax and unwind each day by doing activities they love.
This will give their immune system time to rest and recuperate.
Holidays are all about downtime so enjoy the days doing whatever gives you and your children joy, calm and pleasure.