Doctor and Mom Shares Tips on Keeping Her Family Healthy

4 tips I use to keep my family healthy that might help you, too.

All parents work daily to make sure that they have a healthy family. We make sure our children are eating delicious, healthy food — and that they are washing their hands, getting adequate sleep and drinking their water. Yet, there are some other things that are important to embrace as we create the best lives for our children.

Get outside and have some fun

Chicago winters offer ample outdoor cold weather. With a little preparation, children can and should get out to enjoy them. For sledding, choose a hill without obstacles and that isn’t near water, roads, trees or lots of people. Sled sitting up or feet first, not head first (leave luging to the pros.) Before going skating, contact the local recreation department or law enforcement to ensure ponds are safe and approved for use.

In deciding when a child is ready to begin a winter sport, consider the child’s access to appropriate-fitting gear, demonstrated interest and ability to follow simple instructions. A helmet is a must for skiing, skating and sledding. Beyond protection, helmets often provide more warmth than winter hats.

Use layers for temperature control

A rule of thumb is to dress children in one more layer of clothing than adults in the same weather conditions. Search for wind- and water-resistant outerwear and remember boots, gloves or mittens and a hat.

In your vehicle, babies should wear thin, snug layers. Snowsuits and thick, bulky coats should not be worn underneath a car seat harness — use them instead as a blanket over the harness. Store car seats and baby carriers in the house to keep them warm.

Viruses are a fact of life, so get ready

Colds and viruses are more common during colder seasons — not because of the cold weather itself, but because of other factors, such as spending more time indoors in close proximity to others and where the air is drier.

Stock up on children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Ask your doctor for the appropriate dosage of each and when and how to use them. Keeping a sick child hydrated is key. Push fluids — water, electrolyte solutions, like Pedialyte, or even juice or ice pops.

Know when to call the doctor about a fever

Here are a few rules of thumb:

  • For babies less than 3 months old, call the doctor if the baby’s temperature reaches or exceeds 100.4 degrees.
  • For babies older than 3 months old, call the doctor if the temperature reaches or exceeds 104 degrees, or when any fever lasts more than three days, which may signal a bacterial infection.
  • Children should not return to school or daycare until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medicine, like acetaminophen.

BONUS TIP: Place vaccines at the top of your holiday list

Avoid bringing children to family and other gatherings until they’ve at least received their first round of immunizations (at 2 months). After that, keep them current on their routine vaccines and get those regular flu and COVID-19 shots, which may be administered at the same time.

Elizabeth B. Portin, DO, CAQSM, is a board-certified pediatrician and sports medicine physician at RUSH, and the mother of a 10-month-old son, Bennett. A native of St. Louis, Mo., she completed her pediatric residency at RUSH and sports medicine fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital.


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