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Chicken Soup for a Cold

Mom Magazine - Feburary/March 2016

Chicken Soup for a Cold

If a cold or flu slows down your child this winter, you can keep them comfy with home remedies. Before a trip to the doctor, the best course of action may be to hunker down and return to the self-care practices of our sturdy ancestors.
We're fortunate to live in a country with some of the best medical professionals in the world and a plethora of healthcare options. But before you whisk your child to the doctor's office for every sniffle or cough, you can nurse them through most minor illnesses with a little know-how and a lot of TLC.

Most colds and flu run their course without need for medical intervention; they are caused by viruses which, unlike bacterial infections, do not require antibiotics. The best thing to do is to keep your child hydrated, manage symptoms and keep the child comfortable while waiting out the bug.

For congestion and stuffy noses, steam can provide some relief, younger children may have luck sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running nearby. A neti pot is a good choice for teens and adults who are not bothered by a rush of warm water cleaning out their sinuses. A bulb syringe can be used on babies, toddlers and other reluctant nose-blowers.

A sore, scratchy throat can be soothed by gargling a saline mixture of a half-teaspoon salt and one cup warm water, a few times a day. Alternatively, add honey with a little lemon to hot water and sip like tea.  Congestion or a cough that trigger breathing problems should be addressed immediately. If a child is lethargic, not partaking in eating or drinking, is having trouble breathing or has blue lips or skin seek medical attention right away.

For aches, pains and fever, most pediatricians recommend ibuprofen. Fever is the body's natural reaction to fighting infection so the goal is not to eliminate the fever, rather manage the associated achiness and insure that a child's temperature doesn't spike to a dangerous level.

Babies under six months should see a doctor if their temperature is over 100 degrees and all parents should seek advice from their care providers on acceptable temperature levels.

One of the most important things you can do for a sick child is to keep them hydrated. Pediatricians agree that liquid, in any form, is acceptable (with the exception of caffeinated or sugary drinks.) Start with water, and get the child to drink often. When he gets tired of water, and he will, try popsicles or low-sugar fruit juice diluted with water. Older children and teens may prefer decaffeinated tea. A child may be dehydrated if he is lethargic or irritable, urinates infrequently or doesn't have tears when he cries. It can happen quickly. If your child becomes dehydrated, consult their doctor.  For small children it is a good idea to have an electrolyte replacement solution on hand and consult their doctor.

In most cases of cold and flu, the old adage of 'drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest' still apply. Unlike adults who fret about taking a sick day at work, children have the luxury of less responsibility. Let them rest quietly on the couch with a book or another quiet activity and focus on getting well.

 If you are not sure whether a symptom warrants a trip to the doctor, give them a call. Most offices have a doctor or nurse on call that can answer your questions over the phone, or give you further instructions if they think your child requires immediate attention.
Advice lines often validate your parental instinct, but having the opinion of a medical professional can go a long way to putting your mind at ease.