Coping with winter illness

At Home with Cough and Cold, photo by Violetta Chemeris 
It is inevitable that young children will pick up coughs, colds and sniffles, especially when they attend nursery and play closely alongside their friends. When they are younger, they have a lower resistance to infection and you should expect that they will become unwell from time to time. However, we can all help minimise the spread of infection……..

Hand washing

The single most important factor in preventing the spread of any infection is careful hand washing by everyone … children, staff and parents.
Children and adults should always wash their hands after using the toilet, before eating and after playing outdoors or handling animals.

Wash hands well with warm water and soap. Liquid soap in a dispenser is more hygienic than a shared bar that can harbour germs … and dry with a clean towel (paper towels are used in our nurseries).

Be persistent when establishing good hand washing routines with children and these will soon become a habit that they will remind you about! Think about introducing these routines early, for example, they can be encouraged to wash their own hands with you after a nappy change and also after using the potty. There are a range of lovely soaps around that appeal to young children and nursery staff will confirm that children really enjoy washing their hands! In the absence of soap, when out and about with the children, antibacterial gels are a good substitute.

Using tissues

Have plenty of tissues readily available for wiping children’s noses and dispose of them into a covered bin as soon as possible. Older children should be supported to do this themselves as soon as they are able, so keep everything easily accessible to them. Encourage your child to cover their mouth with their hands when sneezing.

Toys and Furniture

Plastic toys that are put into children’s mouths should be washed and disinfected regularly. Wipe doorknobs, cot rails, baby furniture such as high chairs and low shelves accessed by children with antibacterial spray.


Coughs and colds are usually caused by a virus infection and they will generally clear up on their own without the need for antibiotics.  If required, paracetamol based products may be given at home to ease the symptoms, along with plenty to drink to avoid dehydration.  Menthol, used either as a vaporiser, or applied to cot sheets or their pillow, can help children breath easier as they sleep.

Outdoor Play

It is a myth that children will catch a cold by playing outdoors, especially in the colder weather! The benefits of being outdoors far outweigh the negatives and children have fewer colds and infections where they have regular access to outdoors. This is because bacteria and viruses multiply in the warmer conditions indoors and then pass from child to child when they are all playing inside close together. Even if they have a cold or a bit of a sniffle, they will be fine to play outdoors as long as they are warm and dry.

‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’!

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