Tips for beating the flu and seasonal depression | Dr. Callie Byrd

Is your family at their healthiestthis winter?

There are many illnesses and healthissues that are more common during the winter. For example, asthma, eczema andviral illnesses such as the flu tend to cause the most problems during thistime of year. There is even something called seasonal affective disorder – orseasonal depression – that can be more common during the colder, darker andwetter months.So what can you do to help your family prevent health problemsthis winter?

During cold, dry months we tend touse our heaters much more often, effectively drying out the air in our homes.For children who are prone to eczema or dry skin, this time of year can beparticularly challenging. Be sure to use a mild soap for sensitive skin duringbath time and use a good moisturizer several times a day to prevent skin frombecoming itchy and irritated. You can also try bathing your child three times aweek. When finished bathing, pat the child dry rather than rubbing. If younotice your child has frequently dry or cracked lips, try applying a lip balmdaily.

The dropping temperatures anddeclining weather can also be a trigger for coughing, wheezing and asthmasymptoms. If your child has a history of asthma, prepare for the winter seasonby having refills of their asthma medicine readily available. If you do notalready have a plan in place for what to do if your child has an asthma flare,then it might be time to see your primary care provider to put a plan in place.Symptoms of an asthma attack include coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing,chest pain and chest tightness.

The most significant health issue weface during the winter is the flu virus, and it is hitting us particularly hardthis year. The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and yourfamily from the flu is getting the flu vaccine. It’s never too late to get thevaccine. It saves lives and is available for children as young as six months ofage.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the winter is thatplaying outside in the cold will make you sick. This isn’t exactly the case. Infact, playing out in the cold can actually be beneficial to your health. Somechildren, adolescents and even adults experience something called seasonalaffective disorder, or winter depression. Those living in northern latitudeswith less sunlight during the winter (sound familiar, Northwesterners?) areparticularly at risk. The dark months make some people want to stay indoors, goto bed earlier and be less active. These feelings can worsen and escalate intodepression. Exposing yourself to more sunlight, spending time outdoors daily(even if it is cloudy), and opening up your window blinds in your home can makea positive difference in your attitude. Luckily for us, the days are alreadygetting longer!