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Effects of cold weather on young children

Post by Dr Sana Salim Khan on Sunday, December 4, 2022

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Now that Winter is here, temperatures have dropped significantly and it has become very cold.Winter gives most families the opportunity to enjoy and play in cold weather but, at the same time it poses several health risks especially for young children so certain precautions have to be followed  before going out in the cold.
Children are more prone to heat loss in cold climates. Children exposed to extreme cold for too long can get frostbite or even life threatening hypothermia. They are also at an increased risk of exercise induced asthma.
Public exposure and children causes specific acute and chronic physiological responses. Acute physiological responses include shivering that reduces heat loss and increases heat production. The physiological response to chronic cold exposure also known as acclimatization means a person living in the cold temperature for a long period of time gets adjusted to the climate.
When the body temperature drops below normal, a dangerous hypothermia can set in the child. When A child starts to shiver its a sign that the body's trying to warm itself up, eventually he become sluggish, clumsy and loses consciousness.
Frostbite can occur when the skin and outer tissue become frozen. This can happen on exposed part like fingers,toes ear and nose. Frostbite is a serious problem that can even lead to damage and loss of limbs.
There are a few common questions that parents may ask regarding their children and their care during Winter seasons.
Why do children get more sick in the Winter?
It's actually a myth that cold weather makes you sick but it's not true. Being cold does not cause illness but when it's colder outside children tend to pass more time outside which easily passing germs and infections. Some viruses can thrive and spread better in the cooler and less humid air leading to increase in vital infections. Nasal mucus becomes drier and stickier during the winter months which can increase the spread of virus. Some common illnesses during Winter can be flu, respiratory syncitial virus infections, which causes bronchiolitis, common cold, strep throat or sore throat and stomach flu.
 
How  To prevent Children getting sick in winters?
 Wash hands frequently cover mouth while sneezing. 
 Get the flu vaccine.
 eat plenty of healthy and nutritious food Like nuts , berries ,warm soups and warm drinks.
 Stay-at-home if not feeling well to prevent from spreading the infection.
 At the end most of children with asthma should be covered with surgical mask or cloth or cloth to prevent exercise induced asthma on exposure to cold air. Each children should be advised to reduce the intensity of outdoor exertion on cold days.
 Children should be vaccinated up-to-date including with the flu vaccine.
 Use sunscreen when outside ,snow reflects sunlight onto the face therefore it is required. Even if it is cloudy sunscreen still is necessary as UV rays can affect your skin.
 Encourage children to play indoors. Invent new games , spend time with them and make them feel active even while indoors.
 Sleep deprivation can cause severe effects on your child's immune system.  Ensure child is getting adequate sleep for at least 8 hours every night.
 
Keep eye on children in cold weather
• Never allow children to play outside alone. Establish a buddy system with one or more of their friends and have them look out for one another. Children younger than eight years of age should always be well supervised outside.
• Check from time to time to make sure children are warm and dry.
• Have younger children take frequent breaks to come inside for a warm drink.
• Never send children outside in extreme weather conditions such as snowstorms.
• Keep children indoors if the temperature falls below −25°C, or if the wind chill is −28°C or greater.
• Tell children not to put their tongues on cold metal. It may sound silly, but some kids still do it.
• Advise children to stay away from snowplows and snowblowers.
• Help children choose play areas with a warm shelter nearby such as a friend’s home.
• Advise children to play in an area away from roads, fences and water.
• Apply sunscreen to exposed skin, even when it’s cloudy.
 
Clothing
• Dress children in several layers of clothing. If they get too warm, they can remove one layer at a time.
• Always remove children’s wet clothing and boots immediately.
• Make sure children wear a hat because most body heat is lost through the head.
• Have children keep their ears covered at all times to prevent frostbite.
• Have children wear mittens instead of gloves.
• Dress children in warm, waterproof boots that are roomy enough to wiggle their toes around.
• Remove all drawstrings from children’s clothing to prevent strangulation. Use velcro or other fasteners instead, and use a neck warmer instead of a scarf.
 
Winter is the time when most of the kids fall ill along with elders too. As per a statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work” each year.
It is not just because of the cold weather outside but also for some other reasons. Due to the cold weather, children are not able to play or go outside. When they are within the house, behind closed doors always, the chances of getting an infection becomes much higher. If someone else in the house is infected or someone infected has visited the house earlier, the infection stays in the environment and as children are vulnerable, they get ill fast.
There can be a number of illnesses that children may have during the winter. Here is a list of common winter illnesses in children. 
 
Respiratory Syncytial Virus
This is a common problem of a respiratory infection that happens in kids who are less than 2 years of age. When the infection inflates, it leads to the problem of bronchiolitis.Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV can be a serious problem in infants.
The symptoms take 2 days’ time to show and may develop in the next 3-4 days. The symptoms of the illness are:
a. Runny nose
b. Cough
c. Rapid breathing
d. Fever
e. Congestion in the upper airway
 
Influenza
Influenza or better known as flu is another respiratory infection that can happen all of a sudden. There can be a number of symptoms to detect flu such as:
a. Runny nose
b. Cough
c. High fever
d. The ache is muscles and body
e. Congestion
f. Diarrhea
g. Mild conjunctivitis
Common Cold
The common cold is a common problem that occurs to almost everyone during the winters. It may also lead to viral fever. Though common cold and viral fevers are more common during the winters, it can also develop in any child throughout the year. A kid may suffer from viral fever for a period of 1 week to 2 weeks. Common cold or viral fever can be detected by these many symptoms such as:
a. Cough
b. Runny Nose
c. Sore throat
d. Congestion
e. Fever
This type of illness should not be mistaken with flu as this does not have the symptoms of diarrhea that are there in case of flu. When a kid has a common cold, the most important thing is to keep the child hydrated. The child should be kept in intense comfort and cure as this kind of illness can lead to extreme weakness.
Strep Throat
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that does not just happen during the winters but also can happen during the fall season. This is experienced mainly by the children ranging in the age group of 5 and 15. Some of the common symptoms that you may find in your kid for a strep throat are:
a. Headache
b. Stomach ache
c. Sore throat
d. Fever
e. Trouble in swallowing
Sometimes these symptoms can be also accompanied by other symptoms such as runny nose and cough. You need to take special care of these symptoms for strep throat because if red rashes also appear, this can be a symptom for scarlet fever.
If it is simply just strep throat, it can be treated well with the help of antibiotics. But if the kid s diagnosed with scarlet fever, it is very much important to get in touch with a doctor at the earliest.
Stomach Flu
Stomach flu is mainly a viral intestinal infection and is caused by norovirus. You should not confuse it with influenza. One of the ways to diagnose stomach flu is that the kid may vomit continuously for a few days. It can last from 2 days to even a week.
There are some common symptoms that can help detect the illness such as:
a. Watery diarrhea
b. Vomiting
c. Mild fever
d. Pain in the abdomen
e. Fatigue
f. Headache
This virus can attack and develop in the body of the kid in a very short time as much as 24 hours and hence it is important to take special care of the kids during winters.
Winter seasons are lovely for their amazing weather conditions. But it is also the season that invites a number of illnesses, especially for the kids. Parents should take special care of their kids and should teach healthy hygiene habits to tackle infections. Also, letting them eat healthy food and resting well can surely help in keeping these diseases far away.
 Winters can be fun for you and your child especially if they spend time in a healthy and productive way. Encourage the child for a variety of safe indoor and outdoor activities. And make sure you follow all the above tips that contribute to your child's overall health and keep the child active and save during the Winter season.
 

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