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Winterize Your Kids

The "Old Farmer's Almanac" is calling for colder temperatures for some regions this winter. That will be quite a change for some folks who lately have gotten used to winters with no snow and mercury that hardly ever drops below zero.

Children in particular enjoy outdoor activities, and they are also very susceptible to the seasonal flu and other illnesses. So Dr. Mallika Marshall from CBS Boston station WBZ-TV has some suggestions for parents to keep their children safe and warm.

Dress in layers. Underneath his coat, a child should wear a turtleneck as well as an undershirt. Long johns should be worn under snow pants. Water-proof boots with two pairs of socks are a must, as well as gloves or mittens. And don't forget to put a hat on your child. A hat prevents body heat from escaping.

Wear sunscreen. Just because your children are wearing more clothes doesn't mean they're not exposed to the sun. In fact, the American Cancer Society recommends wearing sunscreen no matter what the season because it's not the temperature that matters but ultraviolet rays which are more intense when the sun is high in the sky. So make sure you put a sunscreen on your child with a minimum SPF 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Limit outdoor time. Many children would spend all day outside playing in the snow if allowed to. But if the weather is below freezing, you should check on them every 15 to 20 minutes.

Avoid taking infants outdoors. Infants lose their body heat quickly, so if at all possible, avoid taking them outside when the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get a flu shot. Recent research suggests children under age 2 are as likely to be hospitalized with flu complications (such as pneumonia) as are people over age 65, the age group always thought to be the highest risk.

So the Centers For Disease Control has decided to encourage vaccinating babies - age 6 months and 2 years old. Infants younger than 6 months cannot be vaccinated, but their families and caregivers are being urged to get vaccinations so they don't spread the virus to newborns. Older children under the age of 9 getting a first time flu vaccination should also get the two-dose requirement, because their response to the first shot does not provide enough protection.

Drink lots of fluids. When the mucous membranes in your mouth and nose are dry, it's easier for germs to latch on to them. So drink lots of water and juice. But avoid caffeine because that dehydrates you.

If all the above precautions were taken and your child still gets sick, Dr. Marshall says you can turn to over-the-counter pain relievers containing acetaminophen to ease symptoms such as aches, chills and fever.

It's a common misconception that the best way to beat a cold or flu is by taking antibiotics, but they are viruses, which don't respond to antibiotics. It's very important to note that parents avoid aspirin because it can lead to Reyes Syndrome.

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