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Tips to keep your kids healthy this winter

Tips to keep your kids healthy this winter

It's the most wonderful time of the year. At least, it can feel that way when your children are in good health. All children are vulnerable to sickness during the winter months, but Fidelis Care Chief Medical Officer Sanjiv Shah, MD offers tips to help you stay ahead of illnesses and ailments that can put a freeze on winter fun.

Protect your children from the flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting the flu shot is the most effective preventive measure you can take. "The flu is much worse than the common cold, and for very young children or those with other health conditions, there can be complications. The flu shot greatly reduces your child's risk," says Dr. Shah. Flu vaccines are recommended for children six months of age or older. If you have questions about whether the flu shot is right for your child, check with his or her doctor.

Stop germs from spreading

Dr. Shah recommends frequent hand washing. "If children touch a germy surface, then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, the germs can be transmitted," he says. Encourage children to wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, lathering up the front and back of their hands and underneath their nails. Also, teach your children to use a tissue when sneezing (then wash their hands). When they cough, they should cover their mouth with their arm.

Be on alert for an asthma attack

"Cold weather can trigger an asthma attack, so if you have an asthmatic child, you need to be prepared," says Dr. Shah. He advises parents to have asthma relief medications on hand and to make sure anyone who cares for your children knows what to do if asthma-like symptoms strike. You may also want to talk to the pediatrician about using a preventive asthma medicine.

Dress appropriately for winter weather

"Hypothermia and frostbite come from exposure to the cold, so protect your children from head to toe," says Dr. Shah. "They need to wear a hat and mittens or gloves, a heavy jacket, thick socks, and when necessary, snow boots." He also recommends making sure children come inside often to warm up, replacing wet clothing with something dry.

The ‘what ifs' of winter are a good reminder that all children should have health insurance. Almost every child in New York State under age 19 is eligible for coverage through the New York State-sponsored Child Health Plus program. Depending on household income, there may be a modest monthly premium.

"When a minor illness turns into something more serious that requires a doctor's visit or even hospitalization, the care can be expensive without insurance coverage. We owe it to our children to have a plan in place so they receive the care they need when they need it."