Nobody wants their kids coughing and spluttering or off school poorly, especially with Christmas less than 2 months way.
There are some simple steps parents can take to protect their kids from some of the main winter bugs.
Here, Dr Sarah Jarvis, Clinical Director of Patient.info, and some other top experts, take The Sun Online through the best ways to ensure your child remains fit and well this winter.
Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK and is also referred to as “the winter vomiting bug”.
In particular, the first wave of norovirus outbreaks have already closed schools and hospital wards across the country.
Dr Jarvis emphasises the need to make sure kids wash their hands thoroughly to stop them from catching this contagious and extremely unpleasant bug.
She tells The Sun Online: “Wash, wash and wash again!
“Norovirus is spread via the ‘faecal oral route’, which is just as disgusting as it sounds.
“Germs passed out in an infected person’s poocan be picked up on someone else’s hands, and transferred into their mouths when they touch their mouths or via food.
“So wash your hands thoroughly after going to the loo, before you handle or eat food and after you empty a potty.
“Clean surfaces including toilet handles, taps and door handles regularly with disinfectant.
“And make sure you wash your hands if you’ve been in a public place like a bus or train, where lots of other people have touched surfaces.
“If children in your kids’ circle are affected, steer clear of them until they have been clear of diarrhoea or vomiting for at least 48 hours.”
Shigella is a highly infectious vomiting bug known to spread quickly around schools and workplaces in the UK when there’s an outbreak.
Shigellosis causes chronic diarrhoea and sickness and can leave people feeling very unwell.
Good hand hygiene is vital to stop the bacteria from spreading and Dr Jarvis also recommends the “boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it” principle for food and drink.
Follow the ‘boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it’ principle for food and drink
Dr Sarah Jarvis
She says: “This form of dystentery is not a big issue in the UK – it’s far more likely to be a problem if you’re travelling overseas.
“If you’re travelling outside Western Europe, the USA, Australia or New Zealand, follow the ‘boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it’ principle for food and drink.”
3. The flu
Influenza, often abbreviated to flu, strikes millions of kids each year and it is almost impossible to avoid completely.
Dr Jarvis advises parents take their kids to get the free flu vaccine.
She says: “Encouraging everyone around you who sneezes to use paper tissues, which they dispose of immediately in a bin (and then wash their hands) will help.
“All children from two years old to the end of primary school are now eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine.
“Kids are ‘super spreaders’ of flu – they pass it on far more efficiently than adults.
“And they’re far more prone to serious complications than healthy adults.
“It really is the most effective way to protect them against flu.”
Dr Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead at Treated.com, also advises making sure your child is having a healthy diet.
He adds: “So with more dangers around in the air we breathe, it’s best to keep yours and your kids’ immune systems fighting fit.
“This means eating a healthy and balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and veg, and making sure you’re getting enough sleep.”
4. Sore throat
Sore throats are common in kids in the winter winter and are almost always caused by viral infections.
Normally they’re nothing to worry about but they can sometimes be a sign of tonsillitis, which is very common in children.
Dr Jarvis recommends keeping kids away from others who are poorly and, yep, more hand washing.
Keeping your child away from others with bad sore throats, and getting them to wash their hands regularly, will help
Dr Sarah Jarvis
She says: “You can’t prevent them but keeping your child away from others with bad sore throats, and getting them to wash their hands regularly, will help.
“Tonsillitis symptoms include fever, sore throat without a cough, swollen tender glands on the front of the neck and white spots on the tonsils at the back of the throat if you shine a torch into their mouths.
“If they have at least three of these symptoms, see your doctor.”
For kids and adults, asthma is normally a lot harder to control during the winter months.
This is because the cold, dry air can irritate airwaves and cause the muscles inside to spasm.
Emma Rubach, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK, advises parents to make sure their child carries their reliever inhaler and wears a simple scarf during the cold weather.
“They cause children’s airways to become inflamed, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and struggling to breathe.
“Make sure your child carries their reliever inhaler (usually blue) with them at all times and keep taking their regular preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed.
“The simple scarf could also save your child’s life.
“Do a ‘scarfie’ – wrapping a scarf loosely over your child’s nose and mouth to help warm up the air before they breathe it in, as cold air is another asthma attack trigger.
“It could also be helpful to stick to indoor activities when the weather is particularly cold.”
The cold chill and central heating systems often cause eczema to flare up during the winter season.
Dermatologist Dr Daniel Glass at The Dermatology Clinic London recommends dressing kids in cotton rather than woollies and keeping their skin moisturised.
He says: “Eczema in the winter is incredibly common, with many people finding that their skin will flare up more frequently or get worse during the colder months, as the cold biting winds and central heating systems continuously dry out their skin.
“Their eczema may be further irritated by taking hot baths or showers, which will in turn strip the skin of its natural oils.
“Bundling up in woollies to ward off the cold may also irritate the skin and exacerbate symptoms, so try to layer your children up in cotton clothing which is often kinder and softer on the skin.
“Keeping the skin well moisturised is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the eczema flaring up.
“This is because eczema is often caused by a problem with your skin barrier function, which can be helped by using a paraffin based moisturiser regularly.
“Try applying a fragrance-free moisturiser at least twice a day, especially after washing, such as Epaderm ointment which can also be used as a soap substitute, or Oilatum cream which is lighter and more easily absorbed.”
7. Hand, foot and mouth
Hand, food and mouth disease is a common infection that causes spots on the hands and feet.
Though children aged 10 and under are more likely to catch it, it can affect older children and adults as well.
Dr Jarvis said: “This virus infection can occur at any time of year and often starts with a fever, followed by a sore throat and then spots in the mouth which develop into ulcers.
“Many children also get spots on their hands and feet (and occasionally buttocks and genitals) a day or two later.
“Hand foot and mouth usually settles within a few days with no complications. Once they’ve had it once, they should be immune for life.
“Hand, foot and mouth is very infectious – usually passed on by coughing or sneezing, as well as by touching someone who has been infected.
“It’s hard to avoid as you can pass it on before you develop any spots.”