It’s funny how the same topic will come up multiple times a day in my job. Today I was asked three times why children tend to have so much more illness in cold weather than they do in the warm weather months. One of my staff members even brought the subject up at lunch. Here is the answer that I gave them.
First and foremost, we spend more time indoors when the weather gets cold. Since germs are mostly spread through touch, indoor living provides more opportunities for our children to touch surfaces that other children have recently touched. As I like to say: outside, your child is unlikely to touch the same rock or stick that another child has handled, but indoors they all have to touch the same door handles, pencil sharpeners, etc.
Secondly, cold weather means less moisture in the air, even if it is raining or snowing. Cold air holds far less water than does warm air. Since we breathe huge amounts of cold air in the winter, our mucous membranes dry out and crack. Our natural barriers to germs are less healthy in the cold winter months, and consequently germs have an easier time taking hold and making us sick.
Thirdly, we get far less natural light in the winter, specifically the light that stimulates our production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a hormone that helps regulate many bodily functions, including our immune response to illness. Low vitamin D levels compound our trouble with germs in the winter.
So what is Dr. Smolen’s remedy to staying healthy in the winter? Your children need to try to avoid crowds of children indoors as much as possible, moisturize their nose daily with some nasal saline, and spend as much time as possible outside, even if the weather is cold! Try it for yourself. If your children are old enough to play outside, see if spending more time in the great outdoors doesn’t make them get sick less, but don’t forget to let them in once in a while to clean up.
Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com. Until next time.