In winter, a number of factors can impact health, including that of children. Yet, it is important to distinguish between myth and reality.
It is easier for children to enjoy winter if they are healthy. Parents may have a variety of concerns about the winter season, some valid and some not. Here is some information regarding common myths about children’s health in winter.
Myth 1: A child should always take a vitamin supplement during the winter.
Some people tend to change their diet in winter, and children are no exception. For some, eating fruits and vegetables may seem less natural when the cold weather sets in. Yet, eating well should be a primary concern throughout the year.
Many parents wonder if they should give their child a vitamin supplement during the winter. A balanced diet based on Canada's Food Guide should meet all the vitamin needs of most children. However, a vitamin supplement may be recommended in certain cases. Speak to a healthcare professional who will be able to provide you with information based on your child’s reality.
Myth 2: Children should not receive a flu shot.
The flu shot is safe for both children and adults. There are many misconceptions about vaccine safety that make parents reluctant to have their child vaccinated. However, infection with the flu virus can have very serious repercussions on health. The flu vaccine allows the body to produce antibodies to fight the flu virus.
It is therefore appropriate to vaccinate children to protect them from this infection and its complications. Some young children with health issues that make them more susceptible should receive the vaccine every year. Your pharmacist can provide you with information on the benefits and risks of the vaccine so you can make an informed decision.
Myth 3: Having cold feet or a cold head can increase the risk of respiratory infections, such as colds and flu.
Who hasn’t been told “Wear a hat, you’ll catch cold!”? According to age-old beliefs, going outdoors without a hat, or with wet hair, or without proper footwear in the cold could have something to do with the onset of a cold or the flu.
There are currently no rigorous scientific studies that support this theory. Expressions such as “catching a chill” or “the shivers” fall into the category of fiction rather than reality. Until the issue is resolved, continue to encourage your children to dress appropriately, as other health problems related to exposure to the cold, such as frostbite, can occur.
Myth 4: If my child under six has a cold or the flu, I can give them any over-the-counter syrup available at the pharmacy.
In the winter, it’s normal for children to get some respiratory tract infections. Symptoms of such infections in children include fatigue, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing.
Medicated syrups developed to relieve coughing and nasal symptoms are generally not recommended for young children. If your child is under six years of age, ask your pharmacist for advice on how to help. If your child is at least six years old, ask your pharmacist for advice on the most appropriate product and dosage.
Myth 5: There is no need to apply sunscreen to your child’s skin in winter.
Contrary to what one might think, sun exposure is not less dangerous in the winter. When children are outdoors, their skin is not only exposed to sun rays coming directly from the sky, but also to those reflected in the immediate environment. Snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays.
The winter cold tends to diminish the sensation of heat by the sun on the skin. As a result, your child may not feel the sunburn produced by the sun. Therefore, it is important to apply an effective sunscreen to exposed areas of the skin, especially on the face.
Some tips for parents
Finally, here are some tips to promote your child's health during winter:
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep.
- Teach your child to wash their hands properly and as often as possible.
- Encourage physical distancing in public places.
- Avoid contact with people who are infected with a virus.
- Consider placing a humidifier in your child's room if the air is too dry.
- Don't delay seeking medical attention if necessary.
- Follow your pharmacist's recommendations for a fun and worry-free winter!