Saturday, October 16

Myths and truths about the cold and children | Experts | Mamas & Papas



Everyone knows that you have to bundle up; wear a scarf; dress the children as divers; do not go barefoot or go out with wet hair to avoid catching a cold, constipation, the flu or pneumonia. And now it turns out that if we don’t want to get a cold (generalizing, covid-19 is a cold) we have to be cold, eat on a terrace at six degrees, have an aperitif ten meters from the bar door or see our children in the park in the winter cold. It is paradoxical that the coldest year we are all going to go through, including children, is the year we are going to get the least constipation.

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Coronaviruses cause colds, it has been known for a long time. There are at least seven types, of which three have severe symptoms. One of these three, unfortunately, is Covid-19 which causes a strange cold. Normally, it is shown as very mild for children, youth and adolescents, mild for adults, in most of these asymptomatic cases, but it can present with very serious effects for people with previous problems or those over 60 years of age.

Actually, the first paragraph shows many inaccuracies, although deeply ingrained in our culture, even in young and educated people. Before the pandemic, more than once, I have had to suffer the penetrating gaze of some parents at the door of the nursery when I did not put my daughters’ coat and scarf during the 25 meters that separated us from the car. The phrase “is going to catch cold, or worse, pneumonia” I have also heard more than once. Moreover, sometimes I have heard that someone who was in a draft inside a house by opening the windows, has had a cold. But if that air movement occurs like a breeze at a sunset on the beach, it is pleasant and does not constipate. Curious.

From a scientific point of view, cold is not allowed or caught; If we do not shelter our son or our grandfather, the only thing that will happen to them is that they will feel more or less cold. And if the temperature drops too low, you can get sick, but hypothermia, and for that to happen, you have to be very cold, below 8 degrees, and find yourself practically without clothes.

Similarly, the famous pneumonia is not a disease; It is called pneumonia and it is a consequence, almost always, of a previous infection by viruses or bacteria. That is, constipation, flu or the like, do not contract from being cold or wet.

It took a pandemic of a virus that affects the respiratory tract to make people aware that it is only spread from person to person (indirect infections are rare) and that cold has nothing to do directly. This is related to contagions only indirectly, since when it is cold, people lock themselves at home, live closer together and do not open the windows. In addition, although it may seem otherwise, the winter air is drier and this facilitates the transport of the virus through the air, when there is more humidity in summer, travel through the air is more difficult for the virus. That is why there are colds and flu, and therefore coronavirus, equally in Sweden as in southern Italy, India or Brazil where the average temperature is higher. There are theories that relate the cold and the weakening of the immune system, although none has been proven. We only have to look at the incidence of colds and flu this year to show that being more or less cold has little influence and that the measures we take against the coronavirus are what are making these respiratory diseases this year are at a minimum.

Really wrapping up is useful to be comfortable and not to be cold, that is why the children as soon as they play a little all their clothes are left over and the war appears with the adults to warm themselves, which is of little use, except to argue and make them uncomfortable . The same thing always happens, they leave the house warm and we spend the rest of the day taking their coat ourselves, because they don’t want it. If they get constipated, it will be because someone infects them with a virus, not because they are more or less cold. Obviously if a child is very young and cannot communicate with us, the decision to shelter him is ours, but in the right measure. If we wrap a little less, the body is more efficient at generating heat than if we wrap excessively and it has to cool down.

Mammals and birds are the only homeothermic classes in the animal kingdom, that is, they must maintain a constant internal temperature for their bodies to function properly. For them, there is a thermal comfort zone that in humans is between 12 and 40 degrees where, if the weather is dry, the body has mechanisms to maintain internal temperature without additional help. The contraction of the blood vessels, the piloerection (goose bumps), the muscular contraction (shivering) and the elevation of the basal metabolism, serve to raise our temperature, while sweating and vasodilation, among others, serve to lower it. In the brain, a group of neurons located in the hypothalamus, which are temperature sensitive, are responsible for organizing the thermoregulatory response and work very well.

Nature gives us examples of how body heat is generated so as not to get cold. We have all seen the movie Titanic and we know that in water the loss of body heat is up to 90 times greater than in land, therefore, hypothermia when falling into cold water is very fast. Porpoises, small dolphins, remain in motion throughout their lives, even when they sleep, in this way they generate heat due to metabolic and muscular activity, counteracting heat loss due to contact with water.

Clearly moving counteracts the feeling of cold. We continually see athletes in shorts and T-shirts doing sports in winter, even when it rains, without getting more constipated than the rest of the population. That is why our children as soon as they start to play they have all their clothes left over. If we force them to bundle up we will make their thermoregulatory system not work and they will end up being cold. It is something similar to what happens with allergies; it is good that the immune system works. Living in a microbe-free environment can cause our immune system to become hypersensitive and develop allergies.

The measures that we have all learned in this pandemic will be those that minimize the spread of viral diseases of the respiratory tract such as rhinoviruses, coronaviruses or orthomyxovirus, the latter the cause of influenza.

From the anthropological point of view, these types of customs originate at times when the population suffers a major crisis and then become generalized. In our country the postwar period caused great hunger and the cold was difficult to combat in an environment of poverty. Our grandparents, who suffered it and had to get ahead, have deep-rooted these shortcomings (we remember the phrase “you needed a war”) and that’s why they put five tablespoons of puree more than you need and they also invented the executioner and the childhood scarf for our suffering. Apart from this anthropological aspect, it is interesting to understand childcare from the evolutionary point of view as a species regarding diet, sleep, emotions and health in general.

That is, a human, yes, children are human, although sometimes we treat them as extraterrestrials, with a T-shirt and shorts they can be in that range without risk of hypothermia or hyperthermia by regulating their temperature with the thermoregulatory mechanisms that evolution it has given you over millions of years. They will not get constipated, have the flu, catch cold or pneumonia, unless another human infects them with a respiratory virus, as is the case with the coronavirus.

In summary, the measures we are taking in the current pandemic are those that prevent colds and flu, regardless of whether it is more or less cold.

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