Family health advice can often be confusing. So we asked NHS paediatrician and TV expert Dr Ranj Singh to give it to us straight on some commonly held beliefs about our kids’ health.
Getting wet leads to colds – fact or fiction?
This is an old wives’ tale! Contrary to popular belief, getting wet will not lead to a cold in itself. So, for anyone having a holiday in the UK, where the weather is ‘unpredictable’, there is no guarantee it’s going to make you poorly.
However, there is some rationale behind this belief. Firstly, the winter months bring colder, wetter weather when viruses tend to be more common, so the chances of picking one up will increase. Secondly, during wetter months we spend more time together indoors which encourages germs to spread from person to person – kids getting wet outside is just a coincidence.
Finally, if you get wet and cold enough – and you have to be very cold for quite some time – then it can suppress the immune system, making children more vulnerable to infections.
Is ‘starve a fever, feed a cold’ good family health advice?
This old adage can be traced back to the 1500s and is still believed by many today. Although there really isn’t any scientific logic behind it. In fact, you should feed and water both fevers and colds.
Colds are infections caused by viruses. Fevers are usually caused by infections (and may be a part of a cold or another illness). In both cases, your body uses more energy, therefore it’s important to ensure it is nourished properly, ideally in the form of a varied, balanced diet.
But hydration is even more important. When we’re unwell or have a fever, we may be able to get by with eating very little, but it’s important to try to drink as normally as possible. Our bodies don’t cope well without food or water, so something like a hot, nutritious soup is a great all-rounder.
What’s the truth about ‘too much medicine stops it working’?
When it comes to taking certain medications, using them for too long or in the wrong way can lead to the body developing a tolerance. So in reality, they become less effective.
One of the most commonly used medicines is paracetamol, also known by brand names Calpol or Tylenol. For many it’s the go-to remedy for fever and pain, and can be very useful for short ailments. Paracetamol is quite safe and the body doesn’t develop a tolerance if it’s used appropriately.
However, there’s some evidence that prolonged and excessive use of paracetamol can lead to liver and kidney problems. Also, it’s not actually a great painkiller. So if you’re suffering from chronic pain you could be better off speaking to your doctor or pharmacist about alternatives.
‘Children feel the cold less than adults’. True or false?
To be honest, the jury is out on this one because we wouldn’t want to do experiments on kids to test it. But let’s think why it might be the case.
In the first place, children often ignore feeling cold because they’re more easily distracted than adults. They may also misinterpret the sensation and express their coldness in another way.
Secondly, kids dislike being wrapped up because they feel restricted – most parents know the fight to get little ones to wear a coat. However, it is really important to remember that children can be much more vulnerable to hypothermia. This is especially of very young ones who can’t yet regulate their body temperature.
Overall, good family health advice here is to dress kids in layers. And always remember hats and gloves, particularly on ski trips. They’re even more important for kids than adults, even if your young skiers claim otherwise.