Fighting the flu? Winter Wellness Begins with Good Oral Hygiene

It’s that time of year again, and we aren’t referring to gifts under a tree, lights on a menorah, or visions of sugar plums dancing in children's heads. It’s the start of flu season, where millions begin to contract colds and respiratory infections during the winter months. While some of the joy of the holidays comes from enjoying sweet treats and taking a break from healthy routines, this indulgence can come with a price on your child’s overall health.

Fast-forward through the festivities, and we begin the classic tale of children waking up with a runny nose, wet cough, high temperature, and sore throat. After all, germs are everywhere, and while most kids aren’t fans of sharing, when it comes to spreading bacteria and viruses, they are extremely generous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most children will begin to get colds after about six months of age when their immunity fades from their mother, and they have to build up their own immune system. In fact, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers will have about seven to eight colds every year! While every parent expects their child to get sick, they may not expect that good oral hygiene is an important factor in preventing illnesses.

 

Maybe oral hygiene isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when dealing with a cold, however, there is more to that connection than one would think. In fact, poor oral hygiene has a series of detrimental effects on health, causing cavities gingivitis, periodontitis, halitosis and tonsillitis. Often children who have sore throats due to viruses also have a cold at the same time.

If your child is suffering from a sore throat due to dental or oral irritation, they will typically show some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain and difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen tongue
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
  • Blisters
  • Red or white spots on the throat or tongue
  • Fever
  • Sweating and the chills

Catching a cold can be quite miserable, both for the child and the parents. In most cases, the simple solution is an over-the-counter cold medicine to reduce symptoms. What most parents may not be aware of is that cold medications are loaded with sugar, and too much can harm the gums and teeth, ultimately, resulting in tooth decay. While there are sugar-free alternatives, many parents have limited time and access to those resources. Instead, here are a few realistic ways to reduce the risk of tooth decay when consuming over-the-counter liquid syrups:

  • Eat and stay hydrated. Saliva increases when eating, so it can to wash away any sugars and acids.
  • Avoid taking cough medicine right before bed. Brush your teeth after you take your medicine, so the sugars and acids stay on your teeth all night.
  • Try a pill form of the medicine instead of a liquid. This eliminates any ingredients that come in contact with teeth.

Keeping the germs at bay is almost impossible in the world of a child, however, by maintaining the health of their gums and teeth, you can keep your child healthy longer.

Having a healthy smile is important for every season of the year. Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Start with good oral hygiene!

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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