Welcome to Childhealthy’s latest update. It’s that time of year when the days are shorter, the weather is colder, and flu and winter virus season is upon us. At Childhealthy, parents frequently ask us how to give children the support they need to stay healthy, fight off any viruses, and keep their child’s energy levels up. What role do vitamins play in a healthy immune system? What vitamins should parents be giving their children throughout the winter? This newsletter covers these questions and more…read on for more info.
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- Note on Strep A infections: an important update
- The importance of vitamins
- Vitamin A for children
- Vitamin D for children
- Vitamin C for children
- Zinc for children
- Omega 3 for children
- Get in touch
- New Childhealthy pages
- Childhealthy updates
- How to reach us
Note on Strep A infections
It is important to quickly address the recent news circulating on Strep A infections before we move on to the main bulk of this newsletter.
News has been spreading lately with regards to an increasing number of Strep A infections in children in the UK. Strep A is a common type of bacteria called Group A Streptococcus, a common cause of tonsillitis in children. It can also cause scarlet fever: symptoms of infection include sore throat, headache, fever, and a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpaper texture.
There is no evidence currently of a new strain of the bacteria, and the increase in cases of Strep A has been partially attributed to higher numbers of circulating bacteria and social mixing.
These symptoms can also be found in other common winter illnesses at this time of year, however, it is important to trust your instincts when your child is unwell. Contact NHS 111 or your GP if:
- Your child’s illness is getting worse
- Your child is feeding or eating much less than normal
- Your child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
- Your baby is under 3 months and has a temperature of 38°C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39°C or higher
- Your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest or feels sweaty
- Your child is very tired or irritable
The importance of vitamins
Vitamins are essential for ensuring the growth, development, and overall health of children. They make up some of the vital nutrients that our bodies need to continue growing and working properly. Different vitamins are responsible for the healthy functioning of different parts of the body and the immune system. Children’s immune systems are maturing and younger children with healthy and normal immune systems will have frequent viral infections in the first few years of life. Very young infants and newborns are more vulnerable to infections and should always be checked by a doctor during an illness in case of more serious infections. Healthy nutrition is the cornerstone of maintaining adequate vitamin intake for babies and children of all ages.
Most essential vitamins come from food and healthy nutrition with a varied and balanced diet. This can be a challenge for many families, especially with toddlers and younger children. However, supplements are readily available and recommended to ensure that your children are getting all the vitamins they need. Vitamins can help with the immune system, healthy bones and teeth, and much more.
The Department of Health recommends that all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
Vitamin A for children
Vitamin A is important for babies and young children. It strengthens their immune system, can help their vision, and keeps their skin healthy. Good sources of vitamin A include dairy products and dark green vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli.
Vitamin D for children
Vitamin D helps to ensure that your children have healthy teeth, bones, and muscles. It helps to make sure that they are growing healthily, and is important for sustained good health throughout their lives. Mostly, vitamin D comes from sunshine, but this is much harder in the UK during the shorter days of the winter and in sunnier seasons it is also important to protect children from too much sun exposure. Vitamin D can also come from foods like red meat, oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines, fortified cereals and milk, egg yolks and liver. Not a list that tops most toddlers top 10 favourite foods!
Studies have shown that most people in the world are not getting as much vitamin D as they should. If your child is not getting enough vitamin D, they risk developing issues with their muscle strength and their bones, including a condition known as rickets.
Vitamin C for children
Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for ensuring that your children stay healthy and that they have a strong immune system. It is also a key part of helping them to absorb iron properly. It often works best in tandem with zinc. We get most of our vitamin C from our food, particularly oranges, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and kiwi fruit.
It is especially important for children during the winter months as there are a lot of germs and viruses around, and they need to have as healthy an immune system as possible. Vitamin C deficiency is very rare with a balanced diet, but most multivitamin supplements will contain vitamin C. Vitamin C also contributes to iron absorption, so it is great for children and adults with low iron levels.
Zinc for children
Like vitamin C, and especially when paired with vitamin C, zinc helps your children’s immune system. Additionally, it helps them grow healthily and facilitates the healing of wounds, as well as enhances their sense of taste and smell. It is particularly key during the winter months when there are so many viruses, to ensure that your child’s immune system is getting all the support possible.
We get zinc from food, including meat and fish, milk, baked beans, and fortified grains and cereals. If your children are not getting enough zinc, the results may be similar to not getting enough vitamin C, with more frequent infections and rashes that may resemble eczema.
Omega 3 for children
There are many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, including helping with their immune system, the healthy growth and development of their eyes, and helping to deal with anxiety and depression. Indeed, brain health is one of the most important reasons to make sure that your child is getting enough omega-3, as it can boost healthy sleep and learning. Omega-3 fatty acids tend to come from oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Individual supplements for all of these vitamins and minerals are available, but usually a multivitamin specifically for children that contain all of them is ideal.
If you are worried that your child is deficient in any vitamin, get in touch with the team at Childhealthy. We are here to answer any questions and concerns with easy access to high-quality paediatric care. If you are concerned about your child’s nutrition, do get in with us to see how we can help, or take a look at our nutritional assessment service.
Coping with winter illness
In case you missed it, our previous newsletter touched upon other winter illnesses, including:
This newsletter also covers tips on looking after a sick child, making the call on keeping them from school (and when to send them back), and much more.
Get in touch
Here at Childhealthy, our paediatricians can discuss any concerns you might have about your child’s health. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via the contact section on our website.
New Childhealthy pages
Diagnostic tests: take a look at our updated page to see what services we can help you with.
What should be in a family first aid kit: Read our article on what to include in a first aid kit and why it’s important to have one, especially when travelling with children.
Meet our new team members – Our new team members are up and running and offering clinic availability at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. To see general paediatrician, Dr Walton D’Costa, and paediatric neurologist Dr Kayal Vijakumar, get in touch here or book an appointment.
Physiotherapy appointments – appointments are also now available at the Women’s Wellness Centre. This adds to our existing appointments at the Cromwell and Portland Hospitals, virtual appointments and home visits. Giving greater choice and availability for families. For more information contact us here.
How to reach us
Follow us on our social channels for regular updates from the Childhealthy team, and as always please do let us know about any topics you want to see covered via email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you have a great month celebrating festivities, seeing out 2022 and welcoming 2023.
Wishing you all the best, Dr Yiannis and the Childhealthy team
Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is intended as general advice and does not replace a medical assessment. If you are concerned about your child please contact your doctor for advice.