By Dr Rahul Adsul
Q. Almost all children suffer from cough and cold in winter. What precautions and home remedies would you suggest for them?
Dry air mixed with smoke and pollution is the main culprit. So, it’s best to avoid going out early morning or late evening. Babies are better protected than children due to their consumption of mother’s milk. For older children, use a mask or handkerchief to cover their nose when they go out. Use humidifiers at home, especially at night. For cough and cold too, a humidifier helps greatly. Avoid eating oily food or icecreams and always visit your doctor and take prescribed medicines. Most importantly, and I can’t stress this point enough, make sure your child is vaccinated for the Influenza vaccine (Flu vaccine).
Q. What do you suggest for babies and infants during winter in terms of bathing and massage?
A daily bath is recommended even if it’s winter time as even in cold environments, babies sweat a lot. But if it’s extremely cold like it gets in Delhi, then you can bathe them on alternate days. The water should be lukewarm and not too hot because hot water will wash away all the required natural oils which the skin produces. The bath should be a quick 5-10 minute one and then dry immediately. Oil massage can also be continued in the winter as it will help prevent skin dryness. There is no harm in using coconut oil in the winter even though many claim that it can cause a runny nose or cough in babies. Alternately, use oil that the baby is already used to.
Q. What about clothing? Many parents tend to overdress their children in winter, especially babies.
It is a very wrong practice to fully cover the baby just because it’s cold. First of all, infants sweat a lot no matter where they are and their temperature regulation is not yet fully developed so if you cover them too much, they will sweat and get a fever which is not a real fever but just a raise in the body temperature. A simple rule is – if you are comfortable in a single layer of clothing then the baby just needs one extra layer. That’s it. Easy to remember.
Another thing to remember is to always use cotton cloth. So the combination can be thermal wear inside and soft cotton full shirt and pants outside with socks (socks are a must). Add a cap if going outside. Using a cap at home depends on the weather, if it’s too cold and windy then yes, a cap at home is a must. Another clothing combination can be a cotton shirt and pants with woollen wear on top. Never put on woollen wear directly as it is an irritant to the skin. While sleeping you can keep the fan speed on low and strictly no to too many blankets. Just a single layer is sufficient. Too many blankets also pose a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Q What about skincare? How to prevent dryness in babies and children?
You can use body lotions which are suitable for kids. Use one with minimal chemicals and one that does not contain artificial fragrances. Use it after a bath and once at night before sleeping after wiping the face with warm water. You can also use lip balm for children. For babies, apply ghee or mother’s milk to the lips as it works very well to keep them soft. Do not apply lotions in skin folds such as armpits, buttocks, and thigh folds as these areas sweat a lot and sweat mixed with lotions is a bad combination for the skin.