Kirsten Sampera, MD, FAAP
The colder weather is here and for parents, that usually spells out more frequent colds and other bugs for the entire family. This just comes with the territory of having children; but how can you have healthy children during those winter months? Dr. Kirsten Sampera has created a helpful list of guidelines to promote healthy children during the winter.
Eat the Rainbow
Try something new (and colorful) from the produce section or seek out community-supported agriculture (CSA) sources. Nature’s full-color spectrum of fruits and vegetables contains crucial phytonutrients (plant-based vitamins and nutrients) to keep you and your family healthy all year.
Citrus fruits (in season for a reason!) are full of vitamin C to support the immune system. While it is tempting to load your child up with Emergen-C while they are sick, it is better to include a diet of Vitamin C all year long for healthy children.
Exercise is a good way of ensuring complete physical and mental health in your children. Incorporating cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance in activities throughout the week protects us from injury and supports brain, heart, lung, and gut health.
Look for ways to invite movement into your current sedentary activities, and find ways to play as a family. Exercise doesn’t mean making your children do jumping jacks or push-ups regularly. In fact, exercise is better received and retained when making it into a game, such as Simon Says, What Time is it Mr. Fox, Tag, Duck Duck Goose, etc. It’s best to start young by making exercise fun!
Nighttime is when the body rests and repairs, so it is incredibly important to stick to a routine to promote the best sleep health practices for healthy children. Regular bedtimes and waketimes are important components of good sleep and allow the immune function to be fortified. Don’t skimp!
Protect your good night’s sleep by avoiding screen exposure in the evening hours and be sure to fill your child’s day with lots of exercise and movement.
Commune with Nature
Time outdoors provides fresh air and sunshine important for good health; luckily we live in Colorado, where there is an abundance of nature trails and parks for you to enjoy 365 days a year. UV rays from the sun help the body produce vitamin D, important for growth and development in children, and immune function in all ages.
While sun avoidance is recommended for ages 0-6 months and sunscreen for everyone else, time outside has been shown to improve mood and health. On those days when the weather is too cold, but the sun is still shining, consider laying in a patch of the sun coming in through your window as if you were a cat.
Although you cannot prevent 100% of germs from entering your household, washing your hands after using the toilet, before meals, and after snacks helps keep some of the little buggers away. Try to encourage your children to keep fingers and hands away from the eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you are sick, to prevent the further spread of germs, consider staying home from your regular activities or wearing a mask out in public if you absolutely cannot stay home.
Healthy Children Stay Connected
Social connections have been shown to protect against disease, providing that everyone is following proper personal hygiene practices. Making time for family and friends reduces stress, improves mood, and provides meaning. Being part of a community and having a sense of belonging strengthens your immune system.
Reach out to your Youth Clinic provider to discuss any challenges you experience as you guide your family through lifestyle changes to support your whole health. We are on your team and want you to stay well through cold and flu season.
About Dr. Kirsten Sampera
Dr. Kirsten Sampera has been with the Youth Clinic since 2007 and has been working in pediatric healthcare since 2004. Dr. Sampera attended St. Olaf College in Northfield Minnesota for her undergraduate studies and received her Medical Degree from Mayo Medical School. She then moved to Los Angeles and completed her pediatric residency training at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA.
Dr. Sampera is also a huge proponent of spending time outside! When she isn’t caring for our patients, Dr. Sampera can be found walking, hiking, snowshoeing, camping, reading, writing, cooking, or doing yoga.