The following was produced in partnership with our friends at Zarbee’s Naturals. Founded by a pediatrician/devoted dad, they’re committed to making wellness products for the whole family using naturally brilliant ingredients.
Between cold temps, constant darkness, and every kid at daycare getting sick all at once, this time of year can make you want to hide under the covers until summer. And while the days are getting just the tiniest bit longer, winter isn’t going anywhere just yet. No one’s ever completely out of the woods when it comes to staying healthy, which is why Dr. Zak Zarbok started Zarbee’s Naturals — to help his own kids power through the colder months with vitamins and cough syrups made of simple, wholesome ingredients. But the right nutrients are just one part of the equation. Your kid is naturally wired to run wild (although you knew that already). Why not use that impulse to help them be brilliant through the rest of the season and all year round?
To help everyone shine until the sun is warm again, follow these proven natural techniques (and some so-crazy-they-just-might-work ones). Also weighing in with a few ideas is Dr. Jen Trachtenberg. She’s an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center and a fellow of the American Academy Of Pediatrics. Or, as you know her, “‘Dr. Jen’ from The TODAY Show who taught everyone how to drop a kid.
Even When It’s Cold, It’s No Excuse To Chill
Regular exercise helps boost immune systems and raises endorphin levels. That’s not news. But what you may not know is that being outside during winter doesn’t actually increase your odds of catching a cold. That’s one of Dr. Jen’s least favorite “Old Grandmas’ Tales,” and would get you roundly mocked in Norway. There, kids as young as 2 weeks old regularly nap outside in strollers for up to 3 hours — even when it’s as cold as -4F. Considering the alternative is dozing in a crowded daycare room, maybe they’re on to something. And research suggests that frozen outdoor napping promotes better, longer sleep. That’s not exactly a recommendation — and those kids are always bundled with a watchful parent nearby — but a gentle reminder that winter isn’t an excuse to stay holed up inside.
Spending more time in nature also primes your kid’s immune system and builds their microbiome — the good bacteria living on the skin. It’s not gross. It’s the “hygiene hypothesis” of this guy who hasn’t bathed in forever. Even if you’re not raising Thor and/or Pigpen, there are only a few real concerns about winter. Hypothermia, for instance, is a real risk. Make sure your kids are appropriately dressed in mittens, scarves, coats, and hats — cover any place heat could escape. After that, let them loose to go sledding, snowshoeing, build an igloo, or hunt for Sasquatch (or his easier-to-spot cousin, Bigfoot). Hell, do it all. In addition to immune benefits, regular activity makes kids so tired they’ll actually want to go to bed at the end of the day.
A Good Night’s Sleep Is Still The Best Medicine
Sleep is the most important thing. Period. You know this because you never get enough of it. For kids, more sleep leads to better functioning immune systems, lower likelihood of colds, and, apparently, world domination in their chosen field. So once the sun goes down (at 4 PM, ugh), get them into their bedtime routine. It should start when they’re toddlers and revolve around 2 things: their toothbrush and a favorite book. At 3-to-5, they’ll need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep daily, per the latest AAP recommendations. Older kids, between age 6 and 12, should get between 9 and 12 hours. By then they’ll have given up regular naps. Don’t worry, they’ll make up for it in college.
As a general rule, dim or shut down screens 1-to-2 hours before bed. The blue light tablets and TVs emit screw with kids’ natural rhythms and messes with their melatonin levels. That lessens overall sleep quality. And you’re right, it does do the same thing to adults, but who would you rather have well-rested? If none of that works, pack your bags and try one of these international methods. You’ve always wanted to take an authentic siesta!
Wash Their Grimey Little Hands
Dr. Jen notes, “Common cold germs spread through contact from hand to mouth,” and kids touch (and try to taste) pretty much everything. Make sure they wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, before they eat, when they get home from school — basically all the time. In fact, wash your hands right now. While you’re at it, clean those shared, high-use objects like remote controls, tablets, and phones. Regardless of your screen time policy, there’s no disputing those things are germ factories.
Old-School Remedies Can Be Highly Effective
Dr. Jen does call one home-spun remedy effective: soup. Fortunately for you, Nana’s chicken noodle soup is bangin’. Clear liquids actually help thin the mucous that makes your kid’s nose run for weeks at a time. And soup can also be packed with nutrition if Grandma goes heavy on the carrots and celery.
Humidifiers are key, especially for apartment dwellers. “A humidifier puts moisture in the air, soothes the throat and nasal passages, and opens airways so kids can breathe easier,” says Dr. Jen. If you’re concerned about safety (because kids love knocking things over), opt for a cool-air humidifier over warm. Or dad-hack it: “Turning on the shower, steaming up the bathroom, and just sitting there for a little while helps, too.”
Vitamins Provide A Healthy Boost
Okay, so kids are naturally resilient, but even the toughest among them need a boost now and again. When that moment arrives, grab a gummy. “Adding a complete multivitamin to their diet can help fill in any nutritional gaps year-round,” says Dr. Zak. “And it beats fighting over vegetables.” Because not every kid appreciates a locally grown kale.
Ensuring your kid gets all their key nutrients this way gives you the peace of mind to focus on what’s really important: letting them be their inherently brilliant self. So rest easy knowing this whole year your kid will be in peak condition. (But keep letting Grams think it’s all because of the chicken noodle.)
This article was produced in partnership with our friends at Zarbee’s Naturals, founded by a pediatrician/devoted dad, they’re committed to making wellness products for the whole family using naturally brilliant ingredients.