In the fall, the increased wind and changes in temperature lead to an unstable circadian rhythm and reduce the body’s immunity. In addition, children go back to child care and school, which leads to increased exposure to respiratory infections due to increased contact with others. Allergies and rhinitis are also common during this season.
Children have a weaker ability to control their homeostasis, so they find it more difficult to adjust to rapid changes in the weather. Therefore, it is important to maintain good health during this time of the year.
Common problems in the fall include colds, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and skin diseases. The common cold is caused by the cold virus that invades the mucous layer of the upper respiratory tract, leading to acute respiratory disease. It is spread through direct or indirect contact with patients. It is important that children wash their hands and brush their teeth when they come home. They should wear layers of thin clothes to help them control body temperature, and change out of clothes that are wet with sweat immediately.
Simple colds can be managed with symptomatic treatment and by taking general precautions. Patients should rest, remain warm and maintain interior humidity at 50-60 percent. They should also increase their fluid intake, freshen the air indoors, and should avoid when people smoke indoors. If a fever higher than 39 degrees Celsius persists, or the child has pain in the ears, muffled ears, or yellow production from the nose and throat, or they have prolonged coughs, they should be seen by a doctor for appropriate treatment.
Some children have rhinitis. They sneeze and cough particularly during the fall.
This can be mistaken for a common cold and these children may undergo prolonged treatment for the cold. Although these children may have mild temperatures and a runny nose, like the common cold, allergic rhinitis is characterized by a clear runny nose, blocked nose and sneezing, together with itchy eyes and red eyes characteristic of allergic conjunctivitis. Children recover from colds within a week in general, though symptoms can last for the whole season.
If your child suffers from the same symptoms each year, you should have him or her seen by a doctor. Make sure that you keep the environment clean. Clean the house frequently and allow fresh air in. Also wash bedding and curtains frequently. When going outside, these children should wear a mask and wash their faces, hands and feet when they get home.
In order to keep your children healthy and disease-free during this time of the year:
* Have a regular lifestyle and do light exercise.
Make sure that they wake up, eat and sleep at the same time of the day. They should do light exercise and walks to become healthier.
* Wash up when coming home.
By washing the face, hands and feet, and brushing teeth when coming home, pollutants, viruses and bacteria are removed. Children should also avoid touching their mouths, noses and eyes to avoid the transfer of cold viruses through the hands.
* Have sufficient rest and sleep.
Sleep sufficiently and rest well to recover immunity.
* Maintain sufficient nutrition and hydration.
In order to maintain appropriate hydration, children should drink juices and water frequently, and consume vitamin C through fresh vegetables and fruits of the season.
By Ahn Kang-mo
The author is a doctor at the Department of Pediatrics at Samsung Medical Center and a professor of Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine. ― Ed.