Tis the season for coughs and colds!
It is cold season. I can’t tell you the number of runny, crusty little noses, coughs, and worried parents I have seen over the last couple of weeks. I remember the days when my own four kids seemed to have constant runny noses. The average child has 6 to 10 colds a year that last a week to 10 days on average, and many times most of those colds are during the winter months. So, I bet your child has a runny little nose now! The best treatment is supportive; no medicine will help a child get over a cold more quickly! Here are a few tips to help your child feel a bit better, and you too….
How should I treat my child’s cold?
- No medicine will make the cold go away faster. Do not use over the counter cold medications, they are ineffective and can actually be dangerous for children.
- Offer your child lots of liquids, especially if your child has a fever. Liquids will thin secretions and prevent dehydration if your child is feverish.
- Use a bulb syringe to suction you your child’s nose if necessary. Infants are not able to eat well with a stuffy nose and most children are not able to blow their nose until about age 2. You may use saline nose drops to loosen mucous in the nose to help. I guarantee your child won’t like this!
- Use petroleum jelly or a heavy ointment around the nose to protect the skin from irritation from drainage and wiping. Chapped lips, cheeks, and red noses are often part of a cold.
- Use a cool mist humidifier or vaporizer in your child’s bedroom. This will keep that “snot” draining a bit better, and will make it easier for your child to breath with the dry winter heat. Be sure to clean the vaporizer as recommended, white vinegar works well if you have hard water.
- Colds often cause drainage in the throat and coughs. Cough syrup is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your child is 1 year or older…try a half teaspoon of honey! Honey has been proven to be as effective for cough relief in children as over the counter cough syrup, and it is safer. For children age 2 to 5 give ½ teaspoon, for children 6 to 11, 1 teaspoon and for children 12 and older 2 teaspoons. Be sure to brush your child’s teeth if given at bedtime. Honey is not safe for children younger than a year of age.
- Elevate the head of your child’s mattress. If your child is in a crib, place a couple of towels between the mattress and the crib springs.
- Give acetaminophen or if your child is older than 6 months you may use ibuprofen, to ease discomfort or fever.
- Antibiotics will not help a viral cold go away faster, I promise!
When do I call the doctor?
- Call if your child begins pulling at ears or becomes increasingly fussy.
- Call if there is thick yellow or green drainage from your child’s nose for more than 10 days.
- Call if there is a worsening cough or difficulty breathing.
- Call if your child is wheezing.
- Call if your child develops a fever after a few days of cold symptoms or begins to feel worse after several days.
- Call if your child refuses to drink.
- Call if you are worried or anxious about your child’s cold symptoms. Always better to call than worry!
How do I prevent colds?
- Hand washing is the number one way to prevent colds and illnesses.
- Wipe down your child’s toys occasionally…try throwing plastic toys into the top rack of the dishwasher!
- Show your child good hygiene by blowing into a tissue and turning your head to cough rather than coughing and sneezing into your hands.
- Make sure that your child has a healthy diet, is sleeping enough, and is not in closed crowded areas during flu and cold season.
- Use a humidifier in your home and/or child’s room. This keeps your child’s noses from drying out with the heat resulting in stuffiness.
- Do not smoke around your child. Children in homes where parents smoke have many more colds and ear infections. Insist smokers change their clothing before holding your child. Clothing holds smoke and is a second-hand smoke exposure for your child.
So it is the season, don’t stay home just because your child has a runny nose! If your child does not have a fever and seems to be feeling OK go ahead and venture out with that runny nose, if not you may be home all winter! If your child does feel a bit under the weather, enjoy the extra cuddle time and put on some chicken soup!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.