BOOST your kids immune system. Picture: Pexels / MART PRODUCTION
BOOST your kids immune system. Picture: Pexels / MART PRODUCTION

How to avoid having a sick child during the festive season

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Dec 22, 2021

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For busy parents juggling gift-giving, working with Santa, travelling and all sorts of stressful holiday tasks; the last thing they need is a sick child.

There are few things worse than a miserable, sick little one, especially when there is pressure to have a good time and keep up with traditions.

Currently, gastro seems to be sweeping through some parts of the country, causing chaos with kiddies’ tummies. It’s critical to boost baby and toddlers’ immune systems through the normal health hiccups that come with weather changes.

Nadia Jansen van Rensburg, co-founder of Rooted Natural and a clinical dietitian with a special interest in paediatric nutrition, elaborates on some of the best ways to build up kids’ resistance.

First, she says it’s important to note that the “nasties” – those pesky bugs – will always make their way, but a healthy, balanced diet can lessen the severity and duration of symptoms.

“Ideally, a balanced intake should include the ‘five a day’ – two fruits, with the rest being vegetable portions. It’s important to include adequate protein, healthy fats, fluids and fibre to ensure a healthy gut microbiome. Include fresh, seasonal foods to boost immunity when you can.

“Sick kids are a handful any time of the year, but there’s no worse time than when families get together for the holidays. This festival, try to keep foods healthy – but also fun!”

Here are five considerations to help look after your little ones when the weather changes:

Keep cool with a bath: when it’s warm and humid, a lukewarm bath is a lovely way to cool your baby or toddler down. Pick a gentle moderate temperature, add some bubbles and a toy or two, and you’re good to go!

Opt for seasonal food pick-me-ups: it can be great to introduce your child to a range of seasonal foods to boost immunity.

All-year round options include bananas and pears. Summer fruits comprise things like avocado, mango, pineapple and grapes.

Winter delights could be berries, strawberries, oranges and naartjies. Combine the fruit, veggies and legumes to get the best from them all. You can also freeze fruit and veg to have them on-hand the whole year round.

Fruit and vegetables can also be a great way to avoid too many added-sugar treats and present it in an ice-lolly or fruit-veg-shake.

When little ones are feeling sick, they often lose their appetite. Opt for nutrient-dense foods that are easy to eat and ensure your child stays hydrated. Consider making purées or smoothies. Fortified milk – formula or full cream milk – can help fill the nutrient gaps during these times. Remember, it’ll pass. Try not to force food on your child. Visit your paediatrician if you’re worried.

Keep immunisations up to date: proper immunisations are one of the best ways to protect your child from dangerous diseases that can cause serious harm and have long-term ramifications. Keep your little one’s vaccination sheet up to date for their age and stage.

Protect soft baby skin: when it’s hot, change your baby or toddler’s nappy often to avoid a rash. The combination of sweat and moisture can up an infant’s chance of getting nappy rash and prickly heat sensations. If a little one has dry skin, consider skipping the daily bath every so often.

Keep clothing cool: when the weather changes and the sun starts shining, it’s important to keep kids comfortable in light, breathable fabrics. Opt for layers, so you can dress up or down as appropriate. Remember to carry changes of clothes – especially for puddle and mud-loving little ones. Consider a full-body costume to protect children from the sun when they’re in the pool. And remember sunscreen!

Van Rensburg says: “Go with your gut! As a parent, you know what’s best. If you ever need a second opinion, don’t hesitate to contact your local GP, paediatrician, nurse or registered dietitian.”

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