A strong immune system is the key to robust health for children and families through winter.

Medical herbalist, Juliet Bowerman says: "Our bodies are uniquely designed to fight off many different types of infection and this can often happen without us even noticing," she says.

But if our defences are impaired in any way, or if we have not been exposed to the organism before, we may manifest symptoms.

"As long as the individual is generally free of underlying disease, well fed and able to rest, he or she will make a quick recovery," says Juliet, who practises at the Children's Clinic at Dolphin House in New Road, Brighton.

If a child has recurrent or persistent infections, Julie believes it is worth considering several factors which may impair immune function.

"A parent or carer should address these factors before rushing off to buy a remedy," she advises.

The first thing to look for is stress or sustained physical or mental pressure.

"Try to stop children working, studying or doing hard exercise through the early-warning signs of an infection," says Juliet.

"Encourage your child to get plenty of sleep instead."

Next on the checklist is food a poor diet during cold weather can leave a child vulnerable.

"Warm foods such as porridge, soup, stew, curry and chilli can be really helpful for infection prevention.

"Consider supplementing their diet with foods and culinary herbs that may help prevent infection and even improve their spirits."

Although children can be choosy about what they eat, it is worth encouraging them to eat plenty of the following: garlic, apples, carrots, live yoghurt, onions, chilli, hot lemon and honey drinks, rosemary, thyme, ginger, cinnamon and sage.

Sudden fluctuations in temperature or persistent damp and cold can cause health problems so keep the home environment well ventilated.

Reduce the drying effect of central heating by placing bowls of water near radiators.

"Avoid overheating your home and encourage your kids to get plenty of outside exercise."

Overuse of antibiotics has its own problems. Persistent use may further lower immunity and upset a child's digestive balance.

"Use antibiotics as a last resort and take them with live yoghurt."

Telling children to stay away from traffic will not only help them play more safely but can also improve their health.

"Dust, fumes and smoky environments can affect their wellbeing, particularly if they are asthmatic oralready have an infection," says Juliet.

While many more people drink plenty of water these days, dehydration can easily be overlooked in a child.

Low fluid intake can cause sore throats, irritated eyes and reduce the kidneys' ability to flush out infection.

If your child has followed all these tips and is still regularly contracting infections, consult your local health care professional.

If a herbal remedy is recommended for your child, as with all medicines, be responsible in the way it is used.