Kids share toys, candy and the cold virus
By: Joanna Robnik, MD
As a general rule, kids aren’t very good at sharing toys or candy. But, when it comes to germs, they take the concept of sharing to a whole new level. Germs are spread through the air, on surfaces and from person to person contact. At this time of year, it seems they are practically everywhere. So, it isn’t surprising that so many children get sick and come down with the common cold.
Colds are characterized by snuffed nasal passages, sore throat, coughing, achiness and fever. Because there is no cure for the common cold, home remedies involved treating the symptoms. In general, the idea is to ease symptoms while letting the cold run its course. Usually colds last about five to seven days.
Recommendations have changed regarding giving over-the-counter cough and cold medications to children. There are four different categories of drugs that are included in the new recommendations:
• Cough suppressants (dextromethorphan or DM)
• Cough expectorants (guaifenesin)
• Decongestants (pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine)
• Antihistamines (brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine maleate, diphenhydramine and others)
Do not give these types of medications to any child under four. There have been numerous studies that show that cold and cough medications do little to relieve symptoms in young children, and, in fact, they can cause serious side-effects.
Believe it or not, chicken soup can help to reduce nasal inflammation. In addition, it’s nutritious. Other home remedies for relieving stuffy noses and mucus build-up include inhaling steam from a hot shower, using a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier, applying a menthol rub on the chest and using a nasal aspirator. Have children blow their nose often. It is the best way to get rid of mucus. Encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids -- especially water. Fluids work to thin mucus, helping it to drain. Keep your child’s head elevated when resting; and encourage plenty of rest, it’s what the body needs to get well.
When a cold is accompanied by fever
In most cases, childhood fever can be treated at home. Over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, work to bring a fever down. Always check the dosage to make sure you are giving your child the right amount. Do not give children aspirin because it increases the risk for a rare and serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
A lukewarm sponge bath (never use cold water) can help cool skin. Dress your child in loose clothing and don’t pile on an overabundance of blankets. Offer cool snacks like popsicles or ice water.
When to call the doctor
Usually a cold, even one accompanied by a fever, can be treated at home. There are certain instances, however, that warrant a call – or visit – to your child’s doctor. Call your doctor if:
• Your child is younger than four months and is running a fever over 100.4 degrees.
• Your toddler as had a fever for more than three days.
• Your child is over four and has had a fever for more than six days.
• Your child is showing signs of dehydration: lack of wet diaper, crying without tears, dry mouth and tongue, inability to drink.
• Your child’s cold or cough lasts longer than 10 days.
• Your child has an earache or drainage from the ear.
• Your child is wheezing or having trouble breathing.
Go to the emergency room if your child:
• Has trouble breathing
• Won’t respond to yo
• Experiences a seizure
It is estimated that there are over 100 different varieties of the cold virus floating around in the air, so it isn’t surprising that so many children (and adults) come down with a cold once or twice a year. In most cases, a cold will run its course in about five to seven days.
Home treatments can help to lessen symptoms making you and your child feel better.