With yet more cold weather on the horizon the corner Rebecca Moore battles on winter bugs with rescue remedies from healthcare professionals
From the moment you pump up the central heating, you can bet your last tissue there’s a big old cold lurking around the corner coming to get you or your child. Winter advocates coughs, colds, fevers and other unwelcome guests, as they make their way into our bodies, sometimes with very little warning. Dr Nico Jonas, Consultant Paediatric Otolaryngologist (ENT Surgeon) at The Portland Hospital says: “Young children are particularly susceptible to upper respiratory infections, especially during winter.”
As parents, especially first-time parents, we naturally worry at the signs of a sniffle from our little ones, but Dr Jonas explains that minor infections are part and parcel of a normal childhood and helps them build a strong immune system.
Dr Jonas suggests the best treatment for a high temperature is paracetamol or ibuprofen, while a saline or saltwater nose spray, when used regularly, can be very effective at clearing nasal discharge. If this infection has caused your baby or toddler to become a snorer, Dr Jonas recommends using a short five-day course of nasal decongestant as it will keep the nose open and help the child breathe better during sleep. “It is important not to use the decongestant for more than five days at a time,” he warns. Upper respiratory infections can also lead to coughing and may develop into a chest infection, which might require a visit to your doctor. In more serious cases it can also spread to the ears and develop into an ear infection.
However, now many parents are seeking alternative methods to clear up nasty winter bugs. Acupuncture has become hugely popular over recent years, although it has been practised in the Far East for more than 2,500 years. Emma Cannon, author of You and Your Bump, and founder of The Fertility Rooms in Sloane Square, Chelsea (emmacannon.co.uk) works with specialist children’s practitioner Alison Smith who treats babies, children and adults.
Paediatric acupuncture, which is a treatment specifically for babies and children, has been practised for more than 100 years and is quite different from treating adults, so it’s important to be seen by an acupuncturist who has experience in this area. It can clear up many conditions including coughs, colds, allergies and skin problems. “We regularly treat babies with a non-needle approach using instruments that stimulate the points rather than pierce the skin, and we also treat school children who attend our weekday after-school clinic,” explains Emma. “Acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s energy system and helps return the body to normal function. It does this by removing phlegm from the body, building energy, removing heat, regulating the flow of energy and supporting immune function,” says Emma. The clinic sees all sorts of different conditions and they also give dietary advice to support their treatments.
It’s particularly important to make sure we’re putting the right food and medicine in our bodies in winter. Henrietta Norton, head of nutrition at Grace Belgravia and co-founder of Wild Nutrition (wildnutrition.com) stresses that taking a good multi-vitamin can be very supportive over the winter months. “My children take our Wild Nutrition Bespoke Child Food-State Multi-Nutrient (suitable for children aged three to 12 years), which provides a range of immune supporting nutrients in a food-form with vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium and zinc. It also includes elderberry, which is excellent for warding off viral and bacterial infections, and is proven to reduce the duration of infection.”
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to keep the immune system built up. “During pregnancy our need for nutrients such as zinc and vitamin D can increase, especially during the winter,” says Henrietta. “These also play a key role in immune tolerance and eating foods rich in these nutrients, such as eggs, pumpkin seeds, game and yoghurt, can be really supportive.”
Many mums-to-be are warned about taking vitamin A during pregnancy, but Henrietta insists it’s an essential vitamin. “Vitamin A is important for foetal development and the immune system. Squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots are excellent sources of beta-carotene. Nature is intelligent and, if we eat seasonally, our food can provide us with the foods we need at the right time.”
Parents should also be wary of ear infections. “Ear infections are again very common and the child can be unwell with a high temperature and earache,” explains Dr Jonas. He recommends paracetamol and/or ibuprofen to treat the pain and temperature, but would prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms persisted. “In the event of discharge from the ear your child will require antibiotic ear drops. Regular ear infections and hearing loss might require further treatment,” he explains.
So when these beastly bugs make their way into your homes fear not, they should be gone before you know it, and predominantly shouldn’t cause too much pain. But if there’s anything unsettling consult your doctor.