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How to keep your kids healthy this winter

November 23, 2023 • read

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How to keep your kids healthy this winter

Kids never seem to get sick when it’s convenient. It always seems to hit in the middle of the night or the morning of a big test, and it’s not always obvious if they need to see a doctor or not. If your little one’s sick, your teen needs a doctor’s note for school, or you have health questions, Maple has you covered.

Maple is a virtual care provider that connects you with Canadian-licensed doctors and specialists, 24/7.

Even if your child isn’t currently sick, getting virus after virus may feel unavoidable. However, there are ways you can help to protect your kids from the worst of cold and flu season. Here’s how to keep your kids healthy this winter and what to do if they come down with something despite your best efforts.

How to keep your kids from getting sick

Cold weather doesn’t have to mark the start of fever and runny nose season. Here’s how to help protect your kids from getting sick.

1

Stay up to date with vaccinations

Getting your child to roll up their sleeve for a vaccine isn’t always easy. Despite that, the flu shot is a great option for protecting your family against the virus.
The flu vaccine changes every year based on which strains of flu are circulating. While it can’t completely guarantee your child won’t get the flu, it does prime their immune system to recognize the virus more quickly. This helps protect against more severe illness and any accompanying complications.

2

Prioritize healthy eating

No one food can completely protect your child from getting sick. However, vegetables, fruits, protein, and healthy fats provide necessary micronutrients to support their immune system function. Kids don’t always want to eat what’s best for them though. Even if they’re not a picky eater, devouring a rainbow of vegetables might not be your child’s thing. If you’re worried they’re not getting enough nutrients, speaking to a dietitian can help you understand if your child’s diet is lacking anything. Even better, they can suggest healthy meals your kids will actually eat.

3

Supplement their diet with vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the building blocks of healthy immune functioning. But it’s difficult to get enough from sunlight and diet alone, leaving many Canadian kids deficient. Incorporating a vitamin D supplement is a great way to make sure they’re meeting their requirements.

4

Promote proper hand hygiene

The influenza virus can live on some surfaces for up to 7 days, just waiting for a chance to go from your child’s hand to their mouth, nose, or eyes. Support your child to wash their hands properly to help curb this.

5

Consider masking in public indoor settings

They may not be everyone’s preference, but masks are a great tool to prevent your child from breathing in cold and flu viruses. As an added bonus, they also help safeguard against COVID-19 when worn in public indoor places.

6

Ask them to give their friends space

Flu and cold viruses pass easily through close contact. Remind your child not to share utensils, food, or drinks with their friends.

7

Create good sleep habits

Lack of sleep can negatively affect the immune system, putting your child more at risk of getting sick. Keep a consistent wakeup and lights out schedule and avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime to encourage a full night’s rest.

How to help your child recover comfortably

Viruses spread easily, and even the most conscientious kids can get sick. No matter what they’re sick with, however, encouraging your child to rest is one of the best things you can do to promote recovery. You can also make them more comfortable by:

  • Prioritizing hydration. Give your child frequent small sips of water to keep the mucus flowing and help reduce congestion.
  • Running a cool mist humidifier to ease nasal congestion and breathing. Don’t forget to use purified water and disinfect regularly to avoid dispersing bacteria or mold into the air.
  • Investing in a good quality nasal aspirator for babies and children who can’t blow their own nose.
  • Using a purified saline solution to clear nasal passages. You can combine this with a nasal aspirator tool.

What medications should I give my child for cold or flu?

Provided they don’t have any allergies to the medicines and you dose by weight, you can safely give your child fever-reducers like acetaminophen (Tylenol or Tempra) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). These also address other symptoms like sore throat and headache.

However, giving children under 18 Aspirin for headaches or other symptoms is a definite no as it can cause Reye’s Syndrome, a serious illness. And, since antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, they won’t work against the viruses that cause colds and flu.

If giving your child medication is feeling tricky, talking to a doctor online can help to answer any questions you have. They may also be able to provide prescription medication like antiviral drugs to shorten the severity and length of your child’s flu. This is especially helpful for children at higher risk of flu complications, like the immunocompromised or kids under five.

If you go this route, timing is everything since antivirals are most effective within 48 hours of symptom onset. With Maple, you can connect to a doctor within minutes. And, if they do prescribe an antiviral, it can be faxed to the pharmacy of your choice, or delivered free to your door.

Without antivirals, how long does the flu last in kids? Recovery should take about a week although coughing and low energy can linger for a week or two after. In contrast, colds take about 7-10 days to run their course.

Quote: "No matter what they're sick with, however, encouraging your child to rest is one of the best things you can do to promote recovery."

Should I let my child’s fever run its course?

Fever isn’t just distressing, it can also be confusing — is 37.5°C a fever in a child? Is 38°C? And how do you know when a fever is too high for a child?

While it can be upsetting to watch your child wrestle with a fever, there are clear guidelines for treating them.

For starters, an underarm or oral measurement above 37.5°C is considered a fever. For ear and rectal temperature, 37.9°C is top of the normal range. But, while you can treat a temperature above these, you don’t have to. If your child’s comfortable, focus on keeping them hydrated and well rested.

When to have your child see a doctor for a cold or the flu

You know your child best. If you think something’s wrong, it’s never a bad idea to speak to a doctor. Beyond that, you should also reach out to a healthcare provider if:

  • Your child goes from getting better to suddenly getting worse.
  • Your child has a barking cough and raspy-sounding breathing — this may indicate croup.
  • A persistently high fever in a child with no other symptoms lingers beyond 48 hours. It may indicate an underlying medical issue or infection.

It’s time to take your toddler or child to the hospital when they:

  • Have a fever and are experiencing confusion, lethargy, severe drowsiness, or a stiff neck
  • Are having difficulty breathing — this can look like working hard to breathe or having difficulty catching their breath just sitting or talking
  • Are showing signs of dehydration

No matter how old they are, seeing your child sick can be stressful. With Maple, get the convenience of 24/7 virtual care anytime, anywhere and connect with a Canadian-licensed healthcare provider to help ease your concerns and get the treatment you need. If you’re looking to get an online prescription or see a healthcare provider quickly, Maple has you covered whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night. Sign up today to help your child feel better, faster.

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