Does The Weather Make My Child Sick?
5 winter health myths debunked by Doc Smitty
Your kids will likely be sicker in the winter than they are in the summer.
Some estimate that children will have 8-12 upper respiratory infections (coughs and colds) per year. Because many of those will be clustered in the winter and viral respiratory infections can last 1-2 weeks, it’s possible your child might seem to be sick “all winter long.”
Anytime a child seems to be sick off and on for months at a time, people will search for answers. Anytime people search for answers, they will start to make connections where connections don’t really exist…
So, now it’s time for: Winter Weather Health Myths
Myth No. 1 - Feed a cold and starve a fever.
I don’t care if you decide to feed a cold. If a child is hungry and not vomiting, let them eat but starving a fever doesn’t make sense. Besides, the major thing is that you need to monitor a child’s drinking when they are sick more than their eating. Dehydration is frequently what causes a child with a cold or flu to get sicker and require medical attention. You should encourage (“force”) your child to drink small, frequent sips of whatever fluid they will drink. Pedialyte or Gatorade are good options but milk is fine too (yes, even with fever).
Myth No. 2 – It’s been too cold for my child to exercise.
Maybe, for like two weeks in late January, it’s too cold for your child to exercise OUTSIDE. Otherwise, buy you and your child a sweatshirt and go for a walk. During those two weeks, you can walk circles around the house together or just do some lunges or something. Even 10 minutes a day is better than zero.
Myth No. 3 – Going outside to the cold (wet head or not) will make your child sick.
Cold weather and getting cold doesn’t actually make you sick. Getting sick is the result of being exposed to an infection that makes you sick not by getting cold. We think that viruses tend to increase in activity during winter due to the fact that people are more likely to be crowded inside.
Myth No. 4 – Taking Vitamin C (or a multivitamin or Zinc or essential oils) will protect your child from colds and flu.
The supplement industry has become big business for both adults and children as people look for anything to prevent illness. Unfortunately, study after study show that they simply don’t work. Essential oils are one of the latest to promote the ability to “boost” the immune system but studies are still lacking to show benefit in children. For now, our best bets are simple things like washing hands, covering coughs and getting the flu vaccine (I know it’s not perfect but at least it’s something).
Myth No. 5 – If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait 5 minutes.
While not technically a myth, because weather can change fast in Texas. Good evidence is the last week. But, we’re not alone. Most of the United States believes that the phrase “If you don’t like the weather in ____, wait 5 minutes” applies to their state. A Google search ranking for this phrase puts Texas at number 8 on the states where this phrase was searched for (behind Massachusetts, New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maine, South Carolina and North Carolina).
Don’t buy into the winter weather myths. Here are some tips for preventing winter weather health issues:
- Help your child eat healthy and get good sleep.
- Get your child up and active in some way every day.
- Teach your child to wash their hand and cover their coughs.
- Get your child a flu shot (it’s still not too late).
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page.He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.