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Keeping CF kids healthy in winter: A Parent’s Perspective

It is a lot of work to keep our CF kids healthy throughout the winter, but the truth is, every year winter seems to be when ours are their healthiest.

Each season brings its own struggles…for us spring brings allergies, summer brings dehydration, fall is back to school- or should I say back to the petri dish. I know winter is typically associated with colds and the flu, and it is a concern for us, but I think I actually worry about the flu virus more in the summer months, when the flu shot has worn off and germs are finding places to multiply in the heat.

I am a believer in the theory that the flu only appears more prominent in winter months because people spend more time indoors with the windows sealed, so they are more likely to breathe the same air as someone who has the virus. Because of this, we really try to avoid public indoor places where people tend to gather to keep warm and busy through the winter. We avoid the malls, restaurants, movie theatres, and definitely no indoor playgrounds or water parks. 

So how do we get through the long winter months? Hands down the number one thing that gets us through the long cold days of winter is the ice.

That’s right…Ice Ice baby! (And some vanilla too with all of the baking I do to keep their belly’s full and the house warm).

My husband spends countless hours every month of November building an ice rink in our backyard. Then as soon as a cold snap hits, we spend more hours building up the ice, one layer at a time, until we have a solid slab of sheer smooth ice ready to support every kid in the neighbourhood.

Backyard ice rink for staying healthy in winter

This is something we have done every year since our kids were 3 and 1 years old. It was more work back then because we had to tie up their skates and then hunch over to hold them up while they thought they were skating by themselves. Those days were not fun for our backs! But they have paid off. Now the kids lace up themselves and out they go, leaving inside our house so peaceful and quiet. I can actually get stuff done now! Toughing out those younger years was well worth the effort. I feel we have given the boys a better opportunity to stay healthy through the cold.

Ice making weather gives me some peace of mind as well – a slight break from my worries of environmental bacteria waiting to make a home inside my children’s lungs. When the temperatures drop below zero, and I am standing in my backyard flooding the rink, I look over to my garden, the dirt all frozen over, and think to myself ‘There’s no cepatia waiting to get stirred up now.’ I look over to the swampy mud puddles in the field, now frozen clumps, and think ‘No pseudomonas breeding in there today’. The air just feels more sterile on cold winter days.

We make sure the kids are dressed super warm, and we send them out. Every day. On school days its after homework and physio. On weekends its after hockey practise at the arena. They never want to come off.

There are kids constantly walking down our street carrying hockey sticks with skates slung over their shoulder. The saying “If you build it, they will come” is true!

And boy do they all work up an appetite! I stock up on all the salty snacks for these long winter skating days…chips, pretzels, popcorn, hotdogs, gatorade. Kids are also like stray dogs…if you feed them, they wont leave! But the longer their friends stay, then the longer they skate and the more exercise they get (which we all know if very helpful for breaking up mucus and improving lung function).

And not only is skating benefiting them with physical activity- boy does it work up an appetite! And not just for the junky snacks…the boys scarf down really healthy, hearty meals in minutes. Chilli loaded with beans…spaghetti loaded with veggies…they are so hungry they don’t even pick through it to check for mushrooms!

And then do they ever sleep amazing! After all of that fresh air they are sound asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows. We can even put them to bed extra early because it gets dark so quickly. Sleep is so important, and unlike summer nights when the sun is still out at 9pm and the kids fuss that it is still playtime, they don’t question their bedtime when it has already been pitch black for hours.

Winter is truly fun, and has the potential to keep a cfer healthy when the cold is embraced and not avoided. 

-Sasha