Cold and Flu Season
temperatures start turning colder and kids are inside and interacting with each
other in greater numbers, cold and flu season inevitably follows. You may know
that cold and flu season is around the corner, but that doesn’t make it easier
when you see your little one struggling with a cough and a stuffy nose.
and flus are viral infections, so antibiotics won’t help when it comes to
clearing up an infection. However, there are steps you can take to help your child
feel better while their immune system battles the virus.
Know What to Give and When
Adults can easily take cold and cough medications, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends against children under
age 4 taking over-the-counter cold and cough medications. If your child has a
fever or symptoms of a cold, and is under age 4, call their pediatrician to
determine first if you need to give any medication, and how much you need to
Remember that a fever is the body’s way of fighting off an
infection. When your child has a low-grade fever, this does not always need to
be controlled with over-the-counter medications.
Call your child’s pediatrician first to find out if your
child needs medication. If it’s recommended that your child take medication,
remember to check the dosing information when using either children’s or infant
acetaminophen (Tylenol), as they may be different. Stick to just one type of medicine to avoid
giving the wrong dose.
Check the label on the bottle for the concentration of
acetaminophen. Let your child’s pediatrician know what type you are giving your
child, and make sure you understand how many milliliters or half-milliliters you
should give your child.
If your child is over 6 months old, you may also give
ibuprofen to help control fever or pain. It’s best to choose either ibuprofen
or acetaminophen instead of alternating between the two, as alternating can
lead to accidental overdoses.
You may find it difficult to measure out medications in the
cups that are included with the bottle. If you’re concerned about using the
provided measuring cup, talk to your local pharmacist. Many pharmacies can
provide measuring syringes that are more precise.
Your child’s pediatrician may recommend giving multiple
medications at one time, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and pain
relievers. If this is the case, make sure you read the labels of all
medications carefully, to avoid accidental overdose. For example, some decongestants
include the pain reliever acetaminophen. Your child could get very sick if they
take a decongestant with acetaminophen, and a separate medication with
acetaminophen. Make sure to write down
which medication you gave and the time you gave it, so that you don’t give too
Remember that you should never give aspirin to a child who is
18 years old or younger. Aspirin can cause a rare disorder known as Reye’s
syndrome in young people.
Offer Plenty of Fluids
Keep your child hydrated to help reduce
cold and flu symptoms and make them feel better. Fevers can result in
dehydration. Your child may not feel as thirsty as they normally would, and
they may be uncomfortable when drinking, so it’s important to encourage them to
drink plenty of fluids.
Dehydration can be very serious in
babies, especially if they are under three months old. Call your pediatrician if
you suspect your baby is dehydrated. Some signs may include:
- no tears when crying
- dry lips
- soft spots that seem sunken-in
- decreased activity
- urinating less than three to four times in 24
If your child is breastfed, attempt
to breastfeed them more frequently than usual. Your baby may be less interested
in breastfeeding if they are sick. You may have to have several short feeding
sessions in order for them to consume enough fluid.
Ask your little one’s doctor if an
oral rehydration solution (like Pedialyte) is appropriate. Remember, you
shouldn’t give little ones sports drinks.
Older children have more hydration
options. These may include:
- sports drinks
- flat white soda
Clear Up Stuffed Nasal
nasal sprays aren’t recommended for young children. Fortunately, there are
several easy ways to clear up a stuffy nose without medication.
Use a cool-mist
humidifier in your child’s room. This will help break up mucus. Be sure to
carefully clean the humidifier between uses to keep mold from developing in the
option is using a saline nasal spray or drops, which makes thin mucus easier to
blow out or remove with a bulb syringe. This is especially helpful before
feeding and bedtime.
Loosen the Cough
your child is over 1 year old, try giving honey for a cough instead of
medication. You can give 2 to 5 ml of honey a few times during the day. Studies show
that honey is safer and likely more effective than cough medicines for children
rest can help your child recover faster.
child may be very hot due to fever. Dress them comfortably and avoid heavy
blankets or excessive layers that could make your child feel hotter. A lukewarm
bath can also help your child cool off and wind down before taking a nap or
going to sleep for the night.
See Your Child’s Doctor
Sometimes even the best at-home care
isn’t enough to help your little one make a full recovery. Call your doctor
right away if your child:
- has a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit for
more than two days, or a fever of 104 or higher for any amount of time
- has a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and
is under 3 months old
- has a fever that will not get better after taking
acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- seems unusually drowsy or lethargic
- will not eat or drink
- is wheezing or is short of breath
You should always call your child’s
pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions about their health.
Surviving Cold and Flu Season
After your child recovers from a cold or flu, it’s time to go
into prevention mode. Wash all surfaces they came into contact with before or during
their sickness. Encourage your children and your other family members to wash their
hands regularly to keep future germs at bay. Teach your child not to share
food, drinks, or utensils when they eat to avoid spreading germs between them
and their friends. Keep your child out of daycare or school when they are ill,
especially when they have a fever.
The good news about cold and flu season is that it does come
and go. Showing your child some loving care and taking steps to put them on the
mend can help you make it through cold and flu season.