Now that fall has arrived and winter will soon follow, the time is right for parents to take steps to protect young children from cold and flu viruses.
According to Dr. Hansa Bhargava, one of the nation’s top pediatricians, most colds and coughs go away by themselves because they are caused by viruses.
Still a healthy child may have a fever as an immune response because his immune system is fighting off the infection, she said.
“Personally, I try not to use a lot of over-the-counter drugs to treat my own children when they have colds, coughs and fever,” she said.
Bhargava offers the following tips to prevent young children from getting sick, some home remedies to try when they do and instances when you should call a doctor:
The two big weapons in keeping germs at bay are good hygiene and a flu vaccine.
- Make regular hand-washing, especially before eating meals, routine.
- Teach your child to sneeze or cough into a tissue or into his bent elbow instead of his hands. This will prevent him from spreading germs onto everything he touches
- Encourage good hygiene with sticker charts or rewards for such things as not putting their hands in their mouth
- Keep hand sanitizer within easy reach, but supervise younger children when using it. Older school-age kids can be given small bottles of hand sanitizer to carry with them in their backpacks
- If your child is over 6 months old, make sure they get a flu vaccine (kids ages 2 and older can start getting the nasal vaccine spray unless they have asthma or a very stuffy nose at the time of their doctor’s visit)
Remedies to help your child feel better
- Get plenty of rest. Rest helps the body focus on getting well, so keep kids home from school
- Drink plenty of fluids. Replenish liquids lost from fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Fluids also help loosen mucus.
- Use a humidifier to keep the air in your child’s room moist which can help break up nasal and chest congestion
- Talk to your pediatrician about giving OTC cold and cough medicines. These medicines should not be given to children under 4 years of age.
- Sponge baths - using lukewarm water with a sponge. You can do this for 20-30 minutes to lower the body temperature and help your child feel better.
- Running the shower and then letting your child inhale the steam from it can help clear nasal congestion. For infants, using saline drops with an aspirator bulb a couple of times a day can help the baby breathe.
- Use thick dark honey in kids who are over the age of 1. The thickness of the honey often calms the cough and is more effective than cough medicine in many cases.
For sore throats:
- This is when the rules about sugar go out the window. Popsicles, ice cream and anything that is cold feels really good to children with sore throats. You can also freeze 100 percent juice and make your own popsicles.
Call a doctor if your child experiences these symptoms
- Excessive trouble breathing
- An earache
- A fever greater than 101 degrees F that lasts longer than 72 hours
- A persistent cough
- Vomiting, by itself, or after coughing
- Swelling of the sinuses, or tonsils