Fact or Fiction: Cold Weather Makes You Sick

As cold weather arrives each year, many parents worry that their children may be at a higher risk for becoming ill. Worries are compounded as parents of toddlers and preschoolers struggle to convince children to keep hats, mittens, and jackets on their bodies while they’re outside. In addition, parents of school-age children and teens may fret about children who refuse to wear a coat or insist on wearing shorts in frigid temperatures. Are these concerns warranted? If so, what can parents do?

The Facts

A new study published by researchers at Northeastern University in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologyhas determined that cold weather may, in fact, play a role in how likely you and your child are to succumb to sickness (Thomsen, 2022). However, this tendency may not really be due to exposed heads, arms, or legs. The researchers found that inhaling cool air (<40° Fahrenheit) through the nose in the winter season may impair the nose’s antiviral immune response function (Huang et al., 2022). This impairment makes individuals more susceptible to respiratory viruses such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), influenza, and the common cold. Therefore, ensuring that your child keeps their nose warm may be the battle you must win.

In cold temperatures, the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, which can lead to other serious health problems, such as frostbite and hypothermia. When temperatures fall below 0° Fahrenheit, areas of the body that are prone to frostbite – nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin, and fingers – should remain covered in warm, dry clothing. Avoid spending time outdoors in temperatures or wind chills below -15° Fahrenheit (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], 2022).

Risks of frostbite and hypothermia may be prevented by limiting time spent outdoors in freezing temperatures; however, contracting respiratory illnesses may be more challenging to avoid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; CDC, 2022), there have been at least 15 million illnesses in the United States during the 2022 cold and flu season. Consider taking the following precautions to lower your family’s chances of contracting respiratory infections this winter.

Ways to Protect Your Family from Illness This Winter

Dress the Part. Wearing layers when outside in cold weather can help prevent physiological conditions that can increase the chance of contracting viruses or more severe illnesses and cold-weather-related conditions. Appropriate outdoor clothing may include wearing layers of light, warm clothing and the following: windproof coats, mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.

Some children may need extra convincing to wear appropriate cold-weather attire. The Cleveland Clinic offers suggestions for parents of teens. Additional winter-safety tips to keep children warm are available from the AAP. Safety tips include using wearable blankets for infants during sleep time, ensuring children come indoors to “warm-up” during outside winter play, and dressing infants and children in layers rather than thick coats when traveling in vehicles.

Wash Hands Often. Germs are easily spread by handling or using community items (e.g., writing utensils, soap dispensers) and touching high-traffic surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches) and, then, touching one’s eyes, nose, or mouth. To help protect against the spread of germs, individuals should wash their hands regularly by scrubbing their hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. Hand sanitizer can be used when soap and water are not available.

Get a Vaccine. According to the CDC, an annual flu vaccine may be the best way to protect against the seasonal flu (CDC, 2022). Receiving vaccinations can help your body repel infections and ease symptoms for those who do get vaccinated but still get sick with the flu. The CDC recommends that most people ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine annually.

Get Outside. Viruses can spread more easily through dry air. This is due to fewer water molecules being available to interfere with the droplets expelled through a sneeze or cough (Northwestern Medicine, 2022). The air inside homes tends to be dry in the winter because of heating, and this condition can increase one’s likelihood of contracting a virus. Therefore, take the whole family outside, and get fresh air. Time spent outdoors may also help maintain Vitamin D levels, which is important for overall immune system health (Aranow, 2011). When preparing to go outdoors with your child, check wind chill temperatures because these temperatures reflect actual “feels like” temperatures, and dress yourself and your child appropriately.

Wear a Mask. Masks can help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching other people, which is one of the ways germs are spread. A mask or other face covering can also keep the nose warm, which may help the nose to maintain its germ-fighting ability when exposed to cold air.

More enjoyable winter seasons can happen with your child by taking the appropriate steps! You may be able to prevent you and your child from catching and spreading viruses or experiencing more severe cold-weather-related health conditions – remember, keep your noses warm!

Additional Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Flu Activity & Surveillance

Need to Convince Your Teen to Wear a Coat? Here’s How

Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter

Tips to Keep Kids Warm All Winter

When and How to Wash Your Hands


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022, January 13). Cold weather safety for children. Healthy Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Cold-Weather-Safety.aspx

Aranow C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 59(6), 881-886. https://doi.org/10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, December 16). Weekly U.S. influenza surveillance report. FLUView. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm

Huang, D., Taha, M., Nocera, A., Workman, A., Amiji, M., & Bleier, B. (2022, December 6). Cold exposure impairs extracellular vesicle swarm–mediated nasal antiviral immunity. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Advance online publication.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2022.09.037

Northwestern Medicine. (2022). Can winter make you sick?. Healthy Tips. https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/can-winter-make-you-sick#:~:text=%22As%20the%20temperature%20starts%20to,Rajendram%2C%20MD

Thomsen, I. (2022, December 6). Northeastern researcher finds new way to prevent the common cold (and maybe Covid-19). News@Northeastern. https://news.northeastern.edu/2022/12/06/why-are-colds-more-common-in-winter/

Healthy Habits

Part of being a parent means that you often put the needs of your child before your own. However, when a parent or caregiver ignores their own needs, they may become overwhelmed, and this situation could negatively impact their health or compromise their ability to care for a child. One way that parents can practice daily self-care is by developing habits that benefit their overall well-being.

Habits are behaviors that are routinely exhibited; are often performed automatically and without much, if any, conscious thought; and take minimal effort. Habits can be a regular part of your daily schedule – like making time every week for exercise, choosing nutritious food options at the grocery store, or driving home the same way after work each day. Good habits can create efficiency in your daily tasks and growth in your general well-being.

Many people have healthy and unhealthy habits, or behaviors, that they perform as part of their daily routines. Healthy habits are habits that can promote your well-being, increase your positive communication skills, or expand your personal growth and development. Healthy habits are an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and may include activities like getting an adequate amount of sleep each night or making it a priority to cook and eat healthy meals. Unhealthy habits, on the other hand, can negatively impact your health and even your relationships. Some examples of unhealthy habits may include overeating; smoking; drinking in excess; or, routinely, not getting enough rest.

Practicing healthy habits can help you feel better in the present and can promote long-term well-being benefits. Using healthy habits as a means of parental self-care can benefit you and your family over time. Furthermore, by maintaining healthy habits, you are modeling positive behaviors for your children. By consistently modeling these behaviors, you are showing your children that developing healthy habits is a good thing and having their own healthy habits will be important in their development and well-being.

Some examples of healthy habits are the following:

  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep nightly
  • Exercising regularly
  • Setting aside time every day for mediation or self-reflection
  • Choosing to drink water over sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Attending regularly scheduled doctor visits

If you need help developing healthy habits, you can start by reviewing the following four stages of behavior change. According to the National Institute of Health, these changes need to take place in your life in order for you to create good or healthy habits:


This is the stage in which you decide that a change needs to take place and you decide that you want that change to take place. Sometimes, you realize that, in your life, something is wrong or that something could be improved. While you are in the contemplation stage you may not know how you are going to make this change, but you do understand a change is needed.

Example – You may realize that you are feeling low on energy every day because you are not getting enough sleep.


This is the stage in which you begin to think about how you want to or can bring the needed change to your life. During this phase, you will have decided to make changes, and you will begin to set goals for making those changes. You are laying the groundwork for the path to change and strategizing about ways to overcome the obstacles you may face. This is the stage right before you take action to change behaviors.

Example – After realizing you are not getting enough sleep, you start to think of ways you can fit more sleep into your schedule. Perhaps you decide to go to bed earlier or get up later, or, if there is time during the day, you decide to take a short nap.

Keep in mind the following questions as you prepare to create a healthy habit:

  • Are your goals reasonable and specific?
  • Is this something you would like friends or family to participate in?
  • Is your environment making it easy to accomplish your goals?

Example – If you would like to establish a healthier diet, have you removed junk food and replaced it with healthier options?


During this stage, you put your behavior change plan into motion. You are learning how to manage the needed changes in your routine and lifestyle, and you work to make these changes become part of your routine. You are also learning about what strategies you can use to effectively overcome the obstacles that may be preventing you from making positive behavior gains. Also, during this stage, the changed behaviors are becoming a more normalized and part of your routine and life, and you are, hopefully, beginning to see the fruits of your labor.

Example – You have decided on a plan to get more sleep. Maybe you are not watching television as late as you used to, or maybe you were able to find time in the afternoon to schedule a nap.


By now, your changed behavior feels like a more natural part of your life, and you may not even be giving it much thought. However, you need to make sure that you continue with the positive behavior changes. You may take a step back from time to time, this is normal, but it is important for you to get back on track and return to your new behaviors, so these behaviors can remain a normal part of your life.

Example – Now that you have been getting enough sleep and are consistently able to get adequate rest, you find you have more energy. However, sometimes you notice that for a couple of nights in a row you have watched an extra hour of television before bed. When you realize this is happening, you make an effort to get back to going to bed at an earlier time every night, so you reinforce your healthy habit and do not support an unhealthy habit.

Remember, breaking bad habits and making new ones can be very challenging. It is important to be patient with yourself and avoid becoming frustrated. Sometimes, mental health challenges can also get in the way of healthy habit development. If you feel like you may be experiencing some mental health concerns, be sure to meet with your healthcare professional so you can address any underlying challenges.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2020, November). Changing your habits for better health. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

Participating in Winter Sports

When it’s cold outside, many families find themselves spending more time indoors. Identifying outdoor winter activities for children can sometimes be challenging. Winter sports, like skiing, ice skating, or hockey, take skill and practice and are sometimes cost-prohibitive for families.

Because of the added equipment outdoor winter sports can be more expensive than those during summer. Before financially committing to signing your child up for a winter sport, find videos or websites to help gauge their interest level. Once you’ve identified a sport your child is excited about, encourage their participation and perseverance.

Participating in outdoor winter sports can also be fun adventures to explore as a family. Take skiing or ice skating, for example. Getting away for the day to visit a ski slope or community ice rink is a great way to spend time together and to see if your child shows interest in these types of activities.

If your child isn’t interested in participating in a cold-weather sport, remember some organized winter sports take place inside, for example, gymnastics, wrestling, dance, or basketball. These types of activities may be offered at no cost through public school systems, or available as a community opportunity.

Organized Sports



Snow Shoeing





Cross-country Skiing

Figure Skating








Family and Community Activities


Public Ice Skating

Winter Fun Fairs

Building a Snowman


Snow Tubing


Cross-country Skiing


It can be easy for children to become sedentary during the winter months. Getting them interested in activities during winter helps to increase enthusiasm and maintain an optimal level of fitness. Participating in organized winter competition sports may also increase your child’s confidence, discipline, positive self-image, and teamwork skills.

Fruits and Vegetables Month

Food can be fun! Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to add brightness to your plate and entice your taste buds. You can find a variety of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Visiting your local farmers’ markets can be an exciting family outing! You can gather fresh ingredients and colorful fruits and vegetables, and, best of all, it’s something you can do together.

Get your kids involved! Your children may want to help make decisions about what goes on their plates. While in the produce section at the grocery store, help them explore the different fruits and vegetable options. A fun activity could be to pick produce that creates all the colors in the rainbow!

Not only can fruits and vegetables add color and create fun family activities, but they offer many health benefits including lowering cardiovascular disease risk (Bondonno, Bondonno, Ward, Hodgson, & Croft, 2017; Lassale et al., 2016), protecting the body against oxidative stress (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018), decreasing mental health disorders (Brookie et al., 2018), promoting nutrient absorption, and acting as anti-obesity agents (Pem & Jeewon, 2015).

As autumn approaches, here are some seasonal favorites you may like to try at home!

Research indicates that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day will provide the greatest health benefits.

Do your part, live a longer life, and establish healthy life-long habits for your kids!



Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Ward, N. C., Hodgson, J. M., & Croft, K. D. (2017). The cardiovascular health benefits of apples: Whole fruit vs. isolated compounds. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 69, 243–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2017.04.012

Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(APR), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487

Lassale, C., Castetbon, K., Laporte, F., Deschamps, V., Vernay, M., Camilleri, G. M., … Kesse-Guyot, E. (2016). Correlations between fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and fatty acids estimated by web-based nonconsecutive dietary records and respective biomarkers of nutritional status. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 427-438.e5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.017

Pem, D., & Jeewon, R. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake: Benefits and progress of nutrition education interventions- Narrative review article. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 44(10), 1309–1321.


Fit Family: Being Active Together

Physical activity should be included in the daily lives of children, and parents should serve as active role models. Research indicates that multiple benefits of mental and overall physical health occur from being active (Moore, 2008).  A simple way to incorporate physical activity in our daily routine is to plan activities that include the entire family. Current recommendations state that toddlers (0-3 years of age) should engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day, and children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes of exercise daily (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2018). Some activities are listed below.  Remember, sometimes, let your children come up with activities, and, sometimes, plan your activities together. Allowing your children to organize the activity supports their independence and individuality, and planning together allows your children to know you care about what they say and helps develop decision-making and responsibility skills.

Infant/toddler Activities could include the following:

  • Pull the string – Set the toy just out of reach, and encourage the child to pull a string to grasp the toy.
  • Make your own instruments – Use pots and pans as drums and pound on them with hands or wooden or plastic spoons to improve your child’s large and small motor coordination skills
  • Rattle shaking – Allow the infant to explore and play with a rattle. If it is easy to shake, put a sock over it to teach the baby hand-eye coordination.
  • Remix of Old Macdonald – Sing Old Macdonald using the baby’s name as Old Macdonald and body parts as the animals.
  • Play ball – Sit on the floor with your infant and roll a ball or multiple balls (i.e., how many balls depends on the child’s age and developmental stage) to him or her to encourage body movement and muscle control.
  • Busy board – Build a board full of objects that generate the use of sensory skills, such as attaching Velcro, sandpaper, or silk

Family Inclusive Activities could include the following:

  • Bicycling
  • Playing Tag
  • Swimming
  • Swinging
  • Hiking
  • Sledding
  • Walking
  • Cooking
  • Collecting leaves
  • Going to the park or zoo
  • Bowling
  • Dancing at home
  • Playing on a Jungle gym
  • Making an obstacle course
  • Playing Simon says


Additional Resources:




Moore, M., & Russ, S. W. (2008). Follow-up of a pretend play intervention: Effects on play, creativity, and emotional processes in children. Creativity Research Journal, 20(4), 427-436.

Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from http:// www.health.gov/paguidelines/ guidelines/default.aspx

2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has released the updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The updated guidelines are based on the latest scientific evidence that explains the benefits of daily physical activity.

The guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for improving health through increased physical activity. New aspects of the guidelines discuss the following:

  • Additional health benefits related to brain health, additional cancer sites, and fall-related injuries;
  • Immediate- and longer-term benefits for how people feel, function, and sleep;
  • Further benefits among older adults and people with additional chronic conditions;
  • Risks of sedentary behavior
  • Guidance for preschool children (ages 3 through 5 years);
  • Elimination of the requirement for physical activity of adults to occur in bouts of at least 10 minutes; and
  • Tested strategies that can be used to get the population more active.

You can download the updated Guidelines at http://health.gov/PAGuidelines



Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (November 18, 2018). Retrieved from https://health.gov/PAGuidelines

Helmet and Bike Safety

Whether used for transportation or just for fun, bikes can be a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise! When parents encourage their children to practice bike and helmet safety, they can help prevent some injuries that can occur while riding, such as concussions. Perhaps most importantly, both children and adults should always wear a helmet every time they ride a bike – even on short rides. While not all injuries can be prevented, a good-fitting helmet can provide protection to one’s face, skull, and brain if a fall occurs. But with so many options, finding the right helmet for your child may seem overwhelming.

Follow the guidelines below for some help!

  • As helmets are so important, the U.S. government has created safety standards for them. When purchasing a helmet for your child, look for a sticker that says it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
  • Helmets should fit snugly all around, with no space between the foam and the rider’s head.
  • The bottom of the pad inside the front of the helmet should be one or two finger widths above the rider’s eyebrows. The back should not touch the top of the rider’s neck.
  • Make sure you can see your child’s eyes and that he or she can see straight forward and side-to-side.
  • Side straps should make a “V” shape under and slightly in front of the rider’s ears.
  • No more than one or two fingers should be able to fit under the chin strap. When your child opens his or her mouth wide, the helmet should pull down on their head. If it doesn’t, the chin strap needs to be tighter.
  • The helmet should not move in any direction once the chin strap is fastened.
  • If your helmet is damaged or has been through a crash, get a new one! Helmets are designed to help protect the rider from one serious impact.

Riding a bike that is in good condition and is the right size for your child can also help keep him or her safe! To quickly test a bike to see if it is the right size, have your child stand straddling the top bar of the bike with both feet are on the ground. There should be 1 to 3 inches of space between your child and the top bar. Also, always check that your child’s bike has brakes that work well and the tires have enough air.

Once your child has a helmet that fits and a bike that is the right size, he or she is ready to ride! Helping your child to understand and follow the following safety guidelines can help keep him or her safety while riding:

  • Always ride with hands on the handlebars.
  • Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, a curb, or an alley.
  • Use bike lanes when possible, and always ride on the right side of the street, in the same direction as cars.
  • Stop at all stop signs, obey traffic lights, and learn appropriate turning signals.
  • Ride with friends in a single file line.
  • Do not wear headphones while riding a bike. Music may distract the rider from noises, such as car horns.


Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Get a heads up on bike helmet safety. Retrieved from


Kidshealth. (2014). Bike safety. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/bike-safety.html