5 most common winter conditions; As the temperature drops, echoes of coughs and sneezes can be heard around playgrounds up and down the country as winter-borne illnesses begin to rear their head. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's Officer for Wales, Dr Mair Parry, explores some of most common winter conditions, what to look out for and how to avoid catching them.

COLDS I would be amazed if your child goes through the entire winter period without catching a cold.

In fact, children get about seven to 10 colds a year compared with two to three for adults. A cold is a mild viral infection which for children can last for around a week. It can cause a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough. There are a few things the whole family can do to avoid catching a cold.

Boost your child's immune system by keeping fit and healthy, use disposable tissues and regularly wash hands to avoid transferring germs onto toys, other people and furniture. Try and prevent your children putting their hands in their mouth or touching their eyes and nose.

That's easier said than done, but it's the best way to avoid catching those germs.

NOROVIRUS Norovirus, sometimes known as the winter vomiting bug, is the most common stomach bug in the UK and a highly contagious one at that.

Each year, it's estimated that between 600,000 and one million people catch it.

The first sign of norovirus is usually suddenly feeling sick followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some children may also have a raised temperature, headaches, aching limbs or painful stomach cramps.

Although unpleasant, the symptoms shouldn't last more than a couple of days.

But do keep an eye out for dehydration. This can be very dangerous so make sure your child drinks lots of water.

There's no specific cure for norovirus, and like so many other common winter bugs, you have to let it run its course.

But there are things you can do to prevent your child catching it. Again, wash your, and their hands frequently with soap and water and disinfect, using bleach-based household cleaners, any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with the virus.

It's best to wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated separately on a hot wash too.

BRONCHIOLITIS Bronchiolitis is one of the most common respiratory illnesses of the winter season and normally sets in between November and March.

Around 40%-50% of all children contract the condition by the time they reach the age of two.

It's easy to catch because the virus spreads through tiny droplets of liquid in coughs and sneezes so there isn't an awful lot you can do to prevent your child contracting it. Symptoms of bronchiolitis in babies are very similar to that of a cold - runny nose, cough and mild fever - which should clear up within two weeks. But severe cases of bronchiolitis can lead to complications such as difficulty breathing and poor feeding - it's these cases that can put children in hospital.

If you're concerned your child has bronchiolitis, visit your GP.

FLU For those of us who have had flu, you know how unpleasant it can be - unfortunately children don't get it any easier.

They have the same symptoms as adults including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat.

And flu usually lasts for up to a week.

For children with long-term health conditions such as diabetes and asthma, getting flu can be very serious as they are more at risk of developing serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

The best way to prevent getting flu, especially if your child has a longterm health condition, is to have a new, annual nasal spray flu vaccine.

It has fewer side effects, is quick and needle free and is now available for children aged two, three and four years old.

Ask your GP about the flu vaccination today.

ASTHMA Children with asthma should be particularly careful during the winter months as sudden changes in temperature can trigger wheezing and shortness of breath which if left unmanaged, can lead to asthma attacks. If you have a child with asthma, make sure they are wrapped up warm and ensure medication is taken regularly. It's also wise to have a spare inhaler when you go out.

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Washing hands frequently with soap can prevent spreading the norovirus <B

Symptoms of bronchiolitis in babies include a mild fever

Children generally get around three times as many colds as adults <B

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