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It's no surprise that many parents of young kids are looking towards this winter with trepidation.
Not only are experts predicting a bumper cold and flu season, but many babies born since the start of the pandemic have never been exposed to these viruses and have little defence against them.
Fortunately, with some tips from those in the know you can give bub the best chance of avoiding the sniffles – and support their recovery if they do fall sick.
1. Minimise exposure
It might sound simple, but it's a good reminder: prevention is always better than a cure.
We're all familiar with the measures recommended for preventing the spread of COVID – the same apply for colds and flu.
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"This includes good hand hygiene, coughing into your elbow, and wearing a face mask if you are sick [to protect your kids]," says Adjunct Professor Karen Price, President of Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
2. Brighten their diet
Diet plays an important role when it comes boosting a baby's immune health.
For children aged over six months, Nutrition for Kids nutritionist Sarah Appleford recommends colourful fruit and vegetables – think berries, citrus, carrot, capsicum and sweet potato) – which are full of antioxidants that can aid immune cell production and function.
3. …And add some new flavour
Fermented foods like Greek yoghurt, the juice of sauerkraut or cultured fruits are full of beneficial bacteria that feed the gut microbiome.
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Appleford recommends starting with a little of the juice (even half a teaspoon), then working towards pieces, or mixing fermented fruits with a normal fruit puree or Greek yoghurt.
Garlic, ginger turmeric and fresh herbs are also believed to contain anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Slow cooked meats can be a great carrier for these aromatics, while mixing ginger with fruit such as berries, pear or apple is a great way to introduce these flavours to babies.
"Often we make the mistake of thinking babies only like bland flavours. In fact, they can handle and enjoy lots of different flavours," Appleford explains.
"The key is to start flavouring more meals with these ingredients as early as possible. Begin with a small quantity as they develop a tolerance and love for these flavours."
4. Plate up for immunity
When sickness strikes, so does poor appetite. To counter this, focus on your child's favourite foods and offer nutritious meals or snacks, with the priority being to provide nourishment.
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Chicken soup is an easy option. Sipping the warm broth can thin mucus and clear up congestion, while the nutrients in the chicken and vegetables can ease the inflammation that causes many cold symptoms.
"Bone broth is nutrient-rich and can help boost immunity through the growth of beneficial bacteria and aiding digestion. It can also help enhance overall gut health," says Appleford.
For babies that are new to solids, blend the soup or use the broth on its own.
5. Keep them hydrated
According to Royal Children's Hospital, it's particularly important to ensure babies receive enough fluids when they're sick, so regularly offer breastmilk, formula, or rehydration fluids such as electrolytes.
For older babies, water is best but diluted fruit juices, soup and broth are other ways of replenishing fluids.
6. Monitor fever
Children's average body temperature is about 37 degrees so if their temperature is higher than 38 degrees, they could have a fever.
The most accurate way of measuring their temperature at home is with a digital probe thermometer.
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For younger children and babies, the temperature should be taken under their arm. Place the thermometer under their armpit, close their arm over the thermometer and hold their elbow against their body. Once the thermometer beeps, check the digital display for the temperature reading.
7. Trust your instincts
You know your child best, so don't hesitate to get in touch with a health professional if you're worried.
"Always see your doctor if you are concerned about your child's health," says Price.
"There is no such thing as an over-anxious parent. Young children and babies can get quite sick quickly, however, they can also improve very quickly with the right care."
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*Always read and follow the directions for use. Seek medical advice for children under 3 months. Incorrect use could be harmful
** The information in this article should not be construed as medical advice. Please always consult your doctor or other medical professional to receive advice which is specific to yours or your child's medical condition
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