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A Winter Break Guide to Keeping Healthy

A Winter Break Guide to Keeping Healthy

Winter is here. With it comes the flu, Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, AKA RSV, Covid, and a host of other illnesses waiting and ready to invade your kid's nostrils.

Nutrition
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NaN MIN

Winter is here. With it comes the flu, Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, AKA RSV, Covid, and a host of other illnesses waiting and ready to invade your kid's nostrils. According to a 2021 study, nearly twice as many mothers than fathers (23% vs 12%) report high stress levels during this time, with 30% expressing concern with keeping family members healthy.

Keep Eating Foods that Fight for You

Forget tossing cafeteria trays, there are foods to do preventative dirty work. The first step to keeping healthy through the holiday season is eating healthy.

A balanced diet for kids should include a variety of foods from all the different food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein sources, and dairy. This will help ensure that kids are getting all the essential nutrients they need for proper growth and development.

Some of the main nutrients that kids need include:

  • Carbohydrates: These provide energy for the body and are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.

  • Protein: This helps build and repair body tissues, and can be found in foods like meat, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.

  • Fats: Fats provide energy and help the body absorb certain vitamins. Healthy sources of fat include avocados, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon.

  • Vitamins and minerals: These are essential for a variety of bodily functions, and can be found in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods.

  • Some fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins and minerals that support immune health include citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, and bell peppers.

By eating a variety of foods from each of the different food groups, kids can ensure that they are getting all the nutrients they need for good health.

The Worry Around RSV Is Real

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that can cause mild to severe symptoms in children, especially in infants and young children. It is spread through respiratory secretions and can be transmitted through close contact with infected individuals or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Many parents are concerned about RSV, as it can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia and bronchiolitis. It is estimated that RSV is responsible for up to 120,000 hospitalizations in children under the age of 5 in the United States each year.

Recent studies have highlighted the importance of preventing RSV infections in young children. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2020 found that early exposure to dogs and farm animals may help protect young children from developing RSV infections. The study found that children who lived on farms or had dogs in their households during their first year of life were less likely to develop RSV infections compared to children who did not have these exposures. Anyone down for gifting a puppy puppy during the holiday season?

Many studies underscore the importance of taking steps to prevent RSV infections in young children, such as practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick. Sure it sounds like common sense, but it is also a good reminder to stay vigilent through travel days and large family gatherings.

Don't Forget About Sleep

During the holiday season, children may be exposed to a variety of exciting and stimulating activities, such as attending parties, traveling, or spending time with family and friends. It can be exaccerbated by travel to different time zones, all of which makes it harder for them to wind down and get a good night's sleep.

However, getting enough sleep is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and make children more susceptible to illness. This is especially important during the holiday season, when children may be exposed to a variety of germs and viruses.

When possible encourage them to go to bed at a consistent time each night and aim for at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

Here are some science-based tips for helping children adjust to different time zones and get a good night's sleep:

  1. Gradually adjust their sleep schedule

To help children adjust to a new time zone, try gradually shifting their sleep schedule over the course of a few days. For example, if you are traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast, you can start by moving bedtime and wake time by 15-30 minutes each day, until they are on the new time zone's schedule.

  1. Create a relaxing bedtime routine

A consistent bedtime routine can help children wind down and prepare for sleep. This can include activities such as taking a warm bath, reading a bedtime story, or listening to calming music.

  1. Limit caffeine and other stimulants

OK, we know children aren't downing a cup of Joe in the AM, but caffeine and other stimulants, such as sugar and artificial colors and flavors, can interfere with sleep. Avoid giving children caffeine-containing beverages, such as soda and energy drinks, in the afternoon and evening.

  1. Keep the room dark and cool

A dark, cool, and quiet sleeping environment can promote better sleep. Try to keep the room at a comfortable temperature, and use blackout curtains or blinds to block out light.

  1. Avoid screens before bed

Screens are amazing on planes, not before bed. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Avoid allowing children to use screens, such as smartphones, tablets, and TVs, in the hour before bedtime.

By following these tips, you can help your children adjust to different time zones and get the quality sleep they need to stay healthy and happy.

For more tips for keeping kiddos feeling tip-top during the holidays, follow YUMI on Instragram @yumi.

About the Author
Arianna Schioldager
Writer
Sources:
  1. Kutsaya A, Teros-Jaakkola T, Kakkola L, Toivonen L, Peltola V, Waris M, Julkunen I. Prospective clinical and serological follow-up in early childhood reveals a high rate of subclinical RSV infection and a relatively high reinfection rate within the first 3 years of life. Epidemiol Infect. 2016 Jun;144(8):1622-33. doi: 10.1017/S0950268815003143. Epub 2016 Jan 6. PMID: 26732801; PMCID: PMC9150639.

  2. 'tis the season to be...stressed? National Poll on Children's Health. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2022, from https://mottpoll.org/reports/tis-season-stressed

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