5 Winter Infections And How To Treat Them

Winter is here. Worried about winter infections making their rounds during this season? Be equipped with the right information to keep your family safe from these five common winter infections.

By Monali Bordoloi

5 Winter Infections And How To Treat Them

Are sniffles and sneezes a common complaint in your home at the onset of winter? If your winter vacations usually tend to revolve around your child’s cold and cough, we have some apt solutions.

Check out the list of five common winter infections that can affect your child, along with the necessary precautions you should take to safeguard her from these.

To answer your questions on the subject, ParentCircle reaches out to a distinguished panel of experts — Dr Nandana Bala, Consultant, Paediatric Allergy and Respiratory Medicine, Dr Shuba Dharmana, Dermatologist and Dr Rinky Kapoor, Cosmetic Dermatologist. These experts will equip you with the right 'medicine' to tackle the dry season without a fuss. 

1. Common Cold: As its name suggests – the common cold is one of the most common of all childhood ailments. The common cold is mostly a mild viral upper respiratory infection. As these germs thrive in cold, dry air,  the winter season creates the right environment for the germs to grow. This makes your child catch a cold easily during this season.

What you can do: Practise hand washing religiously. Ensure your children are washing their hands regularly, especially before eating and after using the toilet. Half the battle with cold is won if you wash your hands.   

2. Flu: Just like the cold, flu is another common illness during winter time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs.

While both the common cold and flu share similar symptoms, flu is characterised by very high fever.

Dr Nandana explains, “Influenza is uncomplicated in most people, but can be serious and cause complications in very young children or in children with other persisting medical problems such as heart or lung issues.”

What you can do: If your child is down with fever or has flu symptoms, ensure she is eating healthy and getting plenty of rest. 

Use a handkerchief or tissue to cover your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing. This will prevent the further spread of the virus. Teach your child to do this from an early age and show it to her by way of example.

5 Winter Infections And How To Treat Them

3. Sore throats: Dr Nandana says, “Sore throats are common in winter. Most of the cases are minor in nature. They could be due to viral infections or allergy." 

What you can do: To get relief from a sore throat, Dr Nandana says, "Most of the time, gargling with salt water is all that is needed. If your child has a sore throat, encourage her to sip warm liquids at regular intervals.”

If your child has a sore throat that is accompanied by high fever, and he is inactive and very tired, please get him checked by a paediatrician as soon as you can.

4. Respiratory infections: Infection of the respiratory tract is one of the most common infections affecting children. The respiratory tract, in simple terms, means our breathing passage and this includes the nose, the throat, the windpipe and the lungs.

Respiratory tract infections are mostly caused by the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). There are two kinds, one is the upper respiratory infection that affects the nose and throat and the other is lower respiratory infection that affects the windpipe and lungs. Of the two, upper respiratory infections are more prevalent.

Dr Nandana adds, “Very young babies can suffer from viral lung infections such as bronchiolitis. Usually, most cases are mild but some can be severe. In serious cases, the child might even require hospitalisation. Pneumonia and infection of the lungs are also common in winter.”

Also, winter brings with it, its fair share of coughs in children. Cough is not a disease per se, but happens due to some irritations occurring in the respiratory tract, which is caused by respiratory infections.   

Dr Nandana explains, “If we have some irritations in our respiratory tract, we tend to cough to clear it. Cough is not a disease; so, don’t worry if your child is coughing. Most mild coughs are harmless. They will go away on their own. However, take your child to a doctor for a check-up, if cough lasts for more than a week or it sounds different and is severe or continuous. Also, if the child shows other symptoms like high fever, noisy breathing or breathing difficulty, see a doctor immediately."

What you can do: 

  • For mild cases of coughing bouts in children, try home remedies like sipping warm water or other fluids.
  • If the child is more than a year old, you can give some honey, about half a spoon, a couple of times a day. This will provide some relief to the child.

5. Hair and skin infections: Dr Shuba Dharmana, Dermatologist of a leading Med-spa in Bengaluru says, “In winter months, our skin and hair face a lot of issues such as dryness and chapping. Skin infections like eczema and psoriasis can also flare up during this time. Special care needs to be taken to keep the hair and skin healthy.”

What you can do: If your child has dry scaly skin, moisturise daily with a cream that softens and soothes the skin. It will act as a barrier on the skin and make it soft and supple.

Dr Rinky Kapoor, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Dermato-Surgeon says, “Winter strips the skin and hair of its natural moisture. Hair gets dry and fizzy in winters because of this.” If you and your child are out and about in the cold weather, cover your head to retain the moisture.

She adds, “Complaints of dandruff and dry scalp are more during winter. If you or your child are facing these issues, make some simple changes. Use a mild shampoo and oil her hair regularly. If these measures do not help, it is best to consult your dermatologist.”

How to prevent these illnesses:

5 Winter Infections And How To Treat Them

Winter illnesses are inevitable. Children will come into contact with numerous viruses at daycare, school, via siblings, friends or adults. Viruses that cause the common cold or the flu spread incessantly through sneezing and coughing. They even survive after 24 hours on surfaces that we regularly come in contact with.

You can imagine the number of viruses a child might be exposed to in a crowded public place like a mall, a social gathering or in public transport.

Dr Nandana says, “Winter can be a challenging time for young children. It brings with it innumerable viral infections. While most of them might be minor, some can be serious.”

However, there are some simple measures that go a long way in keeping children safe from germs and infections.

  • Children should preferably avoid close contact with anyone affected with a respiratory infection.
  • It is advisable for babies and young children to avoid being in crowded places, as the chances of catching an infection are higher.
  • Dr Rinky advises drinking lots of water and other fluids such as juice and soup, as one does not feel thirsty in winter.
  • Dr Nandana suggests, “An annual flu vaccine will help protect against influenza (a more severe viral infection). The shot should be administered annually before the onset of the flu season (i.e. ideally before the rainy season or winter).

Prevention is better than cure, goes an old saying. And with the onset of winter, keeping children out of the doctor’s office can be quite a challenge. Try to keep your family safe from infection by applying these recommended preventive measures. Simple hygienic routines, staying well hydrated, ensuring good rest and a healthy diet will go a long way in keeping your little ones infection-free, not just this winter time, but all the year through!

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