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Winter Weather Causes a Rise in Respiratory Illnesses Among Children

17 Jan 2024

Children’s health is at risk during winter due to their increased exposure to common illnesses. That is why parents should prioritize educating themselves about the prevalent illnesses during this season and the necessary precautions to effectively prevent them.


“During winter, children are especially prone to respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, colds, middle ear infection, sore throat, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The disease’s severity can differ among children, highlighting the crucial role of prevention in their treatment,” said Dr. Budoor Al Shammari, Consultant Pediatrician at Al Thumama Health Center at Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC).



Influenza is widely known as one of the most prevalent illnesses in children during winter. This viral infection targets the respiratory system and causes unpleasant symptoms, including a runny nose, coughing, a high fever of 39 or 40 degrees Celsius, as well as vomiting or diarrhea, and conjunctivitis.



The common cold is a mild viral illness that typically lasts no more than 5 to 10 days. Its common symptoms include a runny nose, coughing, a sore throat, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Sore Throat

During the winter season, children between the ages of 5-15 years can be affected by a bacterial infection known as sore throat, leading to quite uncomfortable symptoms for the child. Parents can detect it by observing symptoms such as throat pain, difficulty swallowing, fever, headache, and abdominal pain. In certain cases, a rash may emerge on the child’s skin, which could progress into scarlet fever.


Middle Ear Infection

A child may experience severe discomfort due to a middle ear infection. Symptoms include earache, particularly when laying down, trouble sleeping, frequent crying, trouble with hearing or reacting to noises, loss of balance, and a fever of 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.


Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Infants are at risk of being affected by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) during winter, a disease that can cause inflammation in the respiratory tract and trachea. This can lead to symptoms like a runny nose, congestion, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, and fever.


Tips for Disease Prevention

Adhering to the belief that prevention is better than cure, taking preventive actions at home is key in reducing childhood diseases, and can be accomplished through:

  1. Instructing your children to wash their hands properly and consistently with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  2. Keeping the sick child away from the healthy child at home to prevent spreading the infection.
  3. Ensuring that all areas where the child spends time, including floors, tables, and chairs, are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized, as they contain many viruses and germs, paying special attention to their toys.
  4. Regularly checking the ventilation in your home.
  5. Following a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables and adequate water intake, as it helps boost the child’s immunity and serves as a preventive measure.
  6. Making sure the child gets enough hours of sleep to boost their immune system and improve its effectiveness, as sleep is a preventative measure.
  7. It is recommended to keep the sick child at home to prevent the spread of the disease to other children.


Next, the focus shifts to prevention at school, which involves careful measures to prevent the child from being infected with diseases. This includes avoiding consumption of exposed or contaminated foods and ensuring that the child regularly washes their hands with soap and water, particularly before meals, after using the restroom, and upon returning from school.


Dr. Al Shammari advised parents to keep their child home from school if they are infected, in order to prevent the spread of infection to other children. She added that the teacher is responsible for notifying the child’s family if the child becomes ill while at school.


In addition, she recommended the regular ventilation of school classrooms through the morning opening of windows and ensuring children receive the necessary vaccinations as recommended by the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar. She also emphasized the significance of physical activity in boosting a child’s immunity and fighting against illnesses, along with promoting personal hygiene and nutritious eating habits among students, as well as ensuring the cleanliness of school classrooms and facilities.