Toddler winter health check

Expert guide to colds, vomiting and chest infections - how to spot them and what to do

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Common cold

There are more than 100 different viruses that can cause a cold, as they infect the soft lining of the nose. The main symptom to spot is the endlessly running nose.

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For toddlers, steam and hydration are helpful. “Give water or clear juice to keep your child hydrated, and try honey and lemon,” says Julia Headland, a private health visitor. “Raise the head end of her bed by putting a towel under the mattress. If she has earache, use a warm towel against the affected ear.”

Winter vomiting

Symptoms include: projectile vomiting, muscle pain, diarrhoea, lethargy, nausea and stomach cramps.

Even before the vomiting or upset tums begins, you might be able to tell your tot’s got the virus if she’s extra tired, off her food or feeling queasy. Again, the most important thing is keeping her hydrated with sips of water or clear juice. “There are also rehydration salts available for older toddlers – check with your pharmacist,” says GP Dr Gill Jenkins. “If she’s not weeing, her urine is dark or strong smelling, or if her skin seems dry, call your GP,” adds Gill.

Bronchiolitis

This one is highly contagious and causes the passages of your toddler’s lungs to fill with mucus, meaning air can’t get through.

Look for the same symptoms in toddlers. “Toddlers may also have a harsh cough and a hoarse voice,” says Dr Carol Cooper, a parenting author and GP. Depending on the level of the infection, you can expect to keep your child out of nursery for up to 12 days, and see a GP if things get worse.

Chest infections

A chest infection is caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the airways that lead down to the lungs or in the lungs themselves. Symptoms can include a chesty cough, breathing troubles and chest pain.

You might find your toddler coughs up yellow or green phlegm as well as having a chesty cough. Your GP might prescribe antibiotics if he or she decides it’s necessary.

“Last winter, Charlie had repeated chest infections. They always started off like a normal cold but then he’d develop a temperature and a rattle in his chest. As well as taking him to the doctor, we raised the head end of his cot and gave him steamy baths,” said Annabel Jones, 40, from London, mum to Charlie, 2.

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Did you know… 


Washing yours and your child’s hands regularly helps stop the spread of germs. To get hands properly clean you should wash them for at least 15 seconds: that’s as long as it takes to sing happy birthday twice.

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