Expert tips to keep kids warm and healthy during winter

Expert tips to keep kids warm and healthy during winter

One of the major struggles every mother faces is the immunity issues for their kids

By Dr Sanjay Wazir

As the temperatures begin to drop, sleeping in cosy blankets and dressing up in warm jackets won’t be enough for your little ones. Since the daily activity is slower than usual and schools are closed too, parents need to watch out on the metabolism of children. Remember that exercising with proper nutrition (and layers of clothing) offers the opportunity to chase away the chills. It is very important to note that in order to regulate metabolism of kids during the winter season, parents need to ensure that the calorie content of their diet is adequately balanced with more fruits and vegetables. Eating healthy winter foods help keep your kids disease-free and warm.

One of the major struggles every mother faces is the immunity issues for their kids. They are often worried about how to strengthen their kid’s immunity, especially in the winter season. In particular, an immunity-supporting diet focuses on foods that are rich in nutrients, such as:

Zinc: This trace mineral is a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in several of your body’s immune mechanisms. Specifically, your white blood cells use zinc to help them produce the right kinds of antibodies to fight off winter bugs. You can find zinc in foods like seafood, wholegrains and pumpkin seeds. Some of the readily available rich sources of zinc are available at home which includes legumes, chickpeas, beans, seeds and nuts.

Vitamin D: Often known as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is produced when the cholesterol in your skin is exposed to sunlight. Of course, there’s less sunlight over winter, so your body may need a dietary top-up. Eggs, butter, fish or fish oil and sprouted seeds are all fairly good sources. Exposure to sunlight before 11 am for 10/15 minutes is advisable. Flax seeds are another rich source of this vitamin and also the best source for vegetarians.

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Vitamin C: The best-known immunity-supporting nutrient, however, has to be Vitamin C. This antioxidant, water-based vitamin helps support your immune system to help keep you healthy especially during the colder winter months. It also plays a role in your body’s response to stress; and since stress can affect immunity, it’s important to keep your Vitamin C levels topped up. Most fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, but some foods are naturally rich in vitamin C such as oranges, tomatoes, blueberries, Kiwis. Also, you can add lemon in your daily routine as it is so helpful for maintaining the weight. Vitamin C protects you against cold and one of the myths people carry is to avoid having oranges or other citrus fruits winters. In fact on the contrary it is important to use vitamin C containing fruits like oranges, kiwi, strawberries etc on alternate basis and days and also use vitamin

Some important foods that can be included in the daily diet of kids are as follows:

Jaggery: Jaggery adds an exotic flavour to every sweet dish and acts as a great remedy for cough, cold or lung infection. A combination of ginger/ saunf adds to the health benefits. Not only is jaggery healthier than sugar but it also keeps you warm during the chilly winter season. We can try jaggery laddo; with payasam/Pongal; jaggery chapatti, etc.

Soups: Nothing works better than a hot bowl/ mug of soup on a cold wintery day. Soups are one of the best foods to keep your kids warm during winters and maintain their digestive system. Homemade vegetable soups can be prepared out of tomato, beetroot, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, beans, broccoli and for non-vegetarians simple chicken soups.

Eggs: Eating eggs fulfill protein, nutrient requirements and also constitute a healthy diet in winters. There are several recipes which have become popular amongst mothers, such as vegetable bread omelette; scrambled egg; poached eggs; fried vegetable eggs.

Jowar/ragi/bajra/makka pancakes: These rotis are a healthy substitute to try in winters. You can serve it with curd, ghee and jaggery or with dal/saag.

Amla/oranges/kiwi/ kino: These are rich supplements of Vitamin C which are extremely nutritious and can also be prepared as a candy or can be given as raw. It enhances immunity which is crucial for treating common flu and winter diseases in children.

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Nuts: Nuts are one of the best foods that keep you warm and energetic during winters. Grab some cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts to stay healthy the entire season. Even kids love nuts and including them in the diet will improve their metabolism. They serve as perfect snacks throughout the day. “Garam Garam moongfali” is also commonly relished during this time. Children less than three years are prone to choking with nuts and hence they should be avoided in such small children.

Foods to avoid:

  • Winters are also a time when there are a lot many festivals and occasions to celebrate and many gifts like cakes and chocolates are exchanged. Simple refined sugar is bad for dental hygiene. Too much sugar in the body can cause hyperactivity and also may reduce the ability of white cells to fight the infection.

  • Similarly, too many cold things like ice-creams and cold drinks during this time can reduce the blood supply of the throat and increase the propensity of catching upper respiratory tract infections.

  • Pakoras are also favourite snacks at this time but because the oil on heating tends to change to trans form, which is bad for cardiovascular health, it is important that we reduce the consumption of oily and salty food during these times.

Parenting Tips

During winter months, parents are concerned about how much clothing is right for children to protect them from the cold. While going out, it is important to make sure that the child is covered adequately to protect against the cold breeze and wearing a thermal inside to form a close layer of warm air. It is equally important to understand that over covering can be dangerous and uncomfortable inside the house. Follow these simple tips:

  • Room temperature: Maintaining an ideal room temperature is extremely critical, of around 25 to 28 degrees. Newborns and toddlers’ skin is just maturing and any kind of thermal stress should be avoided. Change in room temperatures leads to varying conditions of heat stress or cold stress among children. Hypothermia for kids is a big no and it’s important for the parents to monitor the room temperature.

  • Comfortable clothing: In winters, new parents tend to over cover the baby with jackets, caps, mittens, socks, etc. A child should be just adequately clothed. Layers are crucial, but excessive layers can lead to fever or can make the baby cranky. As the baby’s skin is very sensitive, the first layer should be cotton and then woollens.

  • Avoid excessive use of room heaters: During winters, excessive use of room heaters should be avoided. Blowers lead to excessive dryness of the skin and soak all the moisture from the environment. Dry air makes the child uncomfortable as the secretions increase. The oil filled radiators are better than blowers and help in maintaining humidity and moisture within the room. In fact, data suggests that SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome is more common when there is overheating in the room.

  • Use of moisturisers: The skin tends to become dry because of bathing with hot water and one must use moisturisers to reduce the tendency of itching. At the same time, parents should cut and file the nails so that you don’t calls scratch marks

  • Vaccinations: Vaccinations are recommended in all seasons and it is important for the parents to get their child vaccinated regularly as per the paediatrician’s advice.

(The writer is Director – NICU, Neonatologist & Pediatrician, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Gurgaon)

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