Be Prepared for Cold and Flu Season

Getting through the winter cold and flu season unscathed is nearly impossible – especially if you’re a parent.  Make sure you know what you’re up against, and stock the house up now with these home remedies that will ease the discomfort for all.

non medicinal cold remedies Nov2011 iStock Be Prepared for Cold and Flu Season Photo

COUGH

A coughing child can keep the whole house up at night.  For children over the age of one, a little honey can soothe an irritated throat, as can some cool juice or other liquid. For those over the age of 6, an over-the-counter cough medicine can also provide relief.  Your doctor or pharmacist can recommend the best type and strength for your child’s needs and size. Cough drops may be appropriate for an older child, but keep in mind these can pose a choking hazard for younger children.

Running the shower to create warm steam in your bathroom can also ease coughing and related asthma symptoms. If that doesn’t work, you can try using a cool mist humidifier to relieve the urge to cough. If your child’s cough is accompanied by a persistent or high fever and/or interferes with sleeping, it’s time to see the pediatrician.

COMMON COLD

Children get as many as eight colds a year!  While you can’t shorten the duration of one, you can help make your child more comfortable until it goes away on its own.  The good news is that they usually go away on their own and don’t warrant a trip to the doctor’s office.

A warm shower can help clear a stuffy head, and a warm bath can help with achiness that can be caused by a cold and fever.  Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids, too.

A children’s OTC pain and fever reducer, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can ease the sore throat, headache and muscle aches that often accompany the common cold. Saline nasal drops can also help relieve stuffiness. For children over 6, ask your doctor if a decongestant is appropriate.

SORE THROAT & STREP

Most sore throats are caused by colds or viruses and do not require any special medical treatment.  They can be alleviated by pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and lozenges or cough drops can also be soothing for an older child to suck on (as long as choking isn’t a concern).

Sore throats caused by the bacteria Streptococcus do need to be treated or else they can lead to serious health complications. If your child has a severe sore throat that causes difficulty swallowing, along with a fever, stomachache and swollen tonsils, always see the doctor for a strep test and a prescription for antibiotics.

For strep throat, it takes 24 hours for the antibiotic to start to work. Once the symptoms subside, it’s important to make sure your little one continues to take the medication or else the strep can return and cause other serious health problems.

FLU

Having a sick child with the flu is hard on the whole family.  Wash your hands often and avoid sharing utensils to help keep those pesky flu germs from spreading.

Your child probably doesn’t need to see a doctor for the flu, unless she is at risk for complications. In that case, you’ll want to seek medical care at the onset, since taking an antiviral medication at this early stage can lessen the duration and severity of the illness. 

At home, your TLC will go a long way in helping your child to weather the worst of the flu. Encourage her to get lots of sleep and make quiet activities available to help distract her from her misery, such as books, movies and puzzles she can enjoy from her bed.

Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with the fever, headache and body aches that are common with the flu, and you’ll also want to stock up on popsicles, juice and tissues for your little patient.