The lack of sunshine and bitter temps makes Des Moines winters a tough pill to swallow. But throw in a sick kid (or two, or three), and the exhaustion, frustration and, quite frankly, the grossness, can leave you waving the white flag and heading straight for the nearest wine aisle. Hopefully these tips will help you battle back and aid in keeping your kids healthy all-season long.
11 Tips to Keep Kids Healthy all Winter Long
1. Scrub up.
If your kids are like mine, getting them to wash their hands takes constant reminding. Encourage yours to lather up before meals and after coming home from school or other activities. Be sure to remind them that they need to wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds or sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
2. Eat healthy foods.
Be sure to offer your kiddos a variety of healthy foods so they get the nutrients they need. Fill their hungry tummies with a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein.
3. Keep hydrated.
According to WebMD, the amount of water a kid needs to drink each day depends on their age, gender, the weather, and how active they are. As a general rule, here’s how much H2O kids should drink every day:
- Toddlers: 2 to 4 cups
- 4-8 years: 5 cups
- 9 -13 years: 7 to 8 cups
- 14 and up: 8 to 11 cups
4. Get plenty of sleep.
Healthy immune systems need plenty of rest. Give your kids a leg up this winter by ensuring they get between 10 and 13 hours of uninterrupted shut-eye every night.
5. Stay physically active.
Staying active in the winter helps to keep kids healthy and boosts immunity. You should aim for your kids to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day.
6. Avoid winter illnesses.
It’s a common myth that cold weather causes colds or the flu, but it does not. Colds and the flu are caused mainly by viruses. Viruses are spread easily during the winter when kids are in school and in close contact with each other. Prevent colds and the flu by getting kids to:
- Cover their mouth. Sneezing or coughing into the bend of their elbows also helps prevent spreading germs.
- Get immunized. Keep vaccinations current, including the flu shot (for children 6 months and older).
7. Know when it’s safe to go outside.
Windy days can feel much colder than the actual temperature. When deciding how long kids (and adults!) can play outdoors safely, the Windchill factor is most important. Keep these bullet points handy for reference:
- 30° = chilly and generally uncomfortable: Kids can usually play outside comfortably when it’s 30°F and higher — just layer their clothing and make sure they wear hats and mittens.
- 20° to 30° = cold: Be cautious. It’s okay for your kids to go out, but follow the guidelines above, and expect to see signs of chill sooner — take short indoor breaks every 20 to 30 minutes.
- 0° to 20° = very cold: When it’s below 20°F kids should stay inside.
- -20° to 0° = bitter cold, with a significant risk of frostbite: Stay indoors.
- -60° to -20° = extreme cold; frostbite is likely to occur: Stay indoors.
- -60° = frigid; exposed skin will freeze in one minute: Stay indoors.
8. Dress for the weather.
Keep skin exposure to the cold at a minimum. Babies and young children, in particular, don’t have the same tolerance for cold that adults do. Dress your tots in layers to help trap the warmth – and don’t forget scarves, mittens and hats to cover icy ears.
9. Protect delicate skin.
It’s just as important to use sunscreen in the winter as it is in the summer. You may also want to use a moisturizer or lip balm to keep children’s lips and noses from becoming irritated and inflamed.
10. Get equipped.
Children should always wear helmets when snowboarding, skiing, sledding or playing ice hockey. It also takes time to master fun winter activities like sledding, so make sure children know how to do the activity safely.
11. Watch for danger signs.
Signs of frostbite are pale, grey or blistered skin on the fingers, ears, nose, and toes. If you think your child has frostbite bring them indoors and put the affected area in warm (not hot) water. Signs of hypothermia are shivering, slurred speech, and unusual clumsiness. If you think your child has hypothermia call 9-1-1 immediately.
What steps does your family take to stay healthy in the winter?
Resources: WebMD, Parenting Magazine, Cleveland Clinic and the American Academy of Pediatrics.