Helping your child cope with the common cold
One illness which many children go through is the common cold. Here is some advice from a parent herself on how to help your child cope with this pesky illness.
They don’t call it the ‘common cold’ for nothing because that’s what it is…common. Everyone gets colds now and again. It doesn’t matter how often your children wash their hands, how diligent you are about giving them their multiple vitamins and making sure they are dressed appropriately. It’s going to happen. But there are things you can do to soften the blow (pun intended) and send the pesky cold on its way.
What exactly is the ‘common cold’
The cold is a virus that is highly contagious. It travels through tiny air droplets that an infected person emits when they cough, sneeze or blow their nose. Whatever they touch, eat with, drink from, etc. can pass these germs onto someone else who then catches the cold and on and on it goes. Children and adults alike will be sick due to the common cold more often than with anything else.
The virus causing the common cold can take hold anytime in any type of weather but is most prevalent during cold and/or wet weather.
The symptoms of the common cold include: nasal congestion and runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches, sneezing, low-grade fever and reduced appetite due to the drainage from the congestion. Symptoms of a cold will usually appear 3-7 days after being infected and last 3-5 days.
What to do
As parents, there’s little we can do to make a cold go away until it has run its course, but there are ways to make it more bearable.
- Chicken soup. Yes, it really works. The hot liquid helps to open nasal passages and relieve muscle aches and pains and the salt helps sooth a sore throat and dry up congestion.
- Liquids. Lots of liquids. This is especially necessary if your child is running a fever and/or not eating well. It is easy for a child to become dehydrated if their fluid intake is reduced. Dehydration leads to more serious issues, so keep the fluids coming. NOTE: Avoid milk, milkshakes and ice cream. The added mucous produced by these products only add to the problem.
- Gargle salt water. The salt dries up congestion and infection in the throat.
- Hot (not too hot) baths and showers. The steam opens nasal passages. The JOHNSONS company makes a ‘vapor bath’ that is absolutely the best! Soaking in a hot tub that you’ve added vapor bath to is almost magic. It soothes, comforts, opens the chest and nose…it’s amazing.
- Go swimming in an indoor pool. If your older child isn’t running a fever, take them swimming in an indoor pool for 30 minutes to an hour. The chlorine in the pool works wonders for opening nasal passages. The warmth of the water will also sooth their achy muscles.
- OTC medications will not make your child’s cold go away any faster, but like the other things listed here, these medications will alleviate symptoms and help them function better until it’s gone. NOTE: Follow proper dosage instructions carefully.
- Vitamin C and zinc have been proven to help but be very careful to not overdo. The effects of too much can lead to serious problems.
What not to do
Antibiotics will not help a common cold and can actually make things worse. It’s been a common misconception that antibiotics are needed if the nasal discharge is yellow or green. Not so. It’s completely natural for the common cold to produce nasal discharge that is thick, yellow or greenish in color. A common cold has to run its course. The end.
When it’s more than just a cold
What starts out as a common cold can lead to other problems. Some of these include:
- Ear infections
- Strep throat
You’ll know you’re fighting more than just a cold if your child’s symptoms grow to include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- A fever of more than 101 and/or a fever that lasts more than 48 hours or cannot be controlled with fever-reducing medications
- Difficulty breathing
- There is no improvement in their condition after 7 days OR
- Your child’s condition continues to deteriorate in spite of treatment
Those little extras
When your child is sick with a cold (or anything for that matter), they benefit from the extra TLC you give them. The extra cuddling and attention as almost better than anything else you do.
Cozy blankets, extra stories, special hot drinks and their own personal warming animal or pillow* make feeling miserable a little less…miserable.
After the worst is over
Once your child’s symptoms subside, you need to do a thorough cleaning of their bedding, their room and the toys they’ve played with. You also need to replace their toothbrush and make sure you’ve discarded all trash such as tissues in an outdoor receptacle. It also won’t hurt to hand wash silverware and cups they’ve used-rinsing in a bit of bleach water.
Prevention is always best
You know what they say… ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. Whoever the ‘they’ was that said it first knew their stuff.
As parents we know there’s nothing we can do (short of putting our kids in a bubble) to keep them from never catching a cold, but there are some things we can do to decrease their risks and the frequency of their sniffling and snuffling. You can:
- Avoid using antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, there are some physicians who prescribe antibiotics too freely. I feel sometimes it’s only to keep a mom happy. Overusing antibiotics reduces your body’s ability to fight off infection; making you more susceptible to colds and everything else.
- If your child is in daycare, choose a daycare setting that is small. The fewer children there are the lower the risk of infection.
- Keep your house disinfected and clean.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep, eats a healthy diet and drinks plenty of water to keep their system healthy. Part of this healthy diet should include yogurt on a regular basis. The good bacteria in yogurt helps ward off illnesses.
- Avoid second-hand smoke. Cigarette smoke is a proven link to many illnesses-including colds.