They say there is no cure for the common cold and unfortunately that is absolutely true. It’s frustrating though when you have a child suffering with a cold, or even worse, full blown flu, and all you want to do is make them feel better.
But it is that time of year when colds and flu are running rampant, and even if you’ve been diligent and the whole family have had their flu jabs, you might find your little one still manages to catch it. While there is no cure for the flu (sorry), there are a few things you can do to make them feel comfortable and relieve their symptoms.
Is It The Flu, or Just A Cold?
Firstly, work out if your child actually has the flu, or if they have just come down with a cold. In the beginning they can seem very similar, since both start as upper respiratory infections with almost identical symptoms. As it progresses, both a cold and the flu can cause coughing, headaches, a stuffy nose and aching muscles. That is where the similarities end. Afterwards the symptoms change and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference:
- If your child has a cold, they may also get a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing and a fever up to 102 degrees.
- If they have the flu, their fever will spike over 102 degrees, and they will also get a different set of symptoms. Common flu symptoms to keep an eye out for can include chills, sweats, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and a complete loss of appetite.
If you suspect that your child has the flu, the first thing you should do is take them to the doctor for a check-up. Just bear in mind that all your doctor will likely do is confirm that it is the flu (or not) and give you some advice. Doctors don’t prescribe antibiotics for the flu, since it is a virus and not an infection. But they will able to tell you what the best course of action is, and if they think that there might be a bacterial infection at work, then they can prescribe something to fight it.
You will most likely be told to buy some over-the-counter cold and flu relief for children and see how they go with it. Most of these over-the-counter remedies will help ease some of their discomfort, like fever, muscle aches and sore throats. You should be careful when giving things like cough suppressants or decongestants though, since these can dry up the secretions in your child’s nose. Since children can’t ‘blow’ as hard as adults to dislodge the dried mucus, this can lead to problems breathing. Instead, it’s safer to stick to the basic children’s cold and flu remedies you can find in any pharmacy. Beware, some children’s cold and flu medicines are not appropriate for babies and children under the age of 6. If you’re not sure, always ask your pharmacist before you give medicine to your child.
At Home Remedies
Sometimes the cold and flu remedies you’ve given are not enough, or perhaps your baby is too young to take them. Thankfully there are a few things you can do at home that should offer some relief from their symptoms – helping them to sleep, breathe and eat normally. For example, you can:
- Keep them sitting upright to help them breathe
- Use a bulb syringe to remove mucus from the nose
- Use saltwater drops to help loosen mucus
- Put a humidifier or a vaporiser in their bedroom to help with congestion
- Encourage rest, maybe sitting on the sofa with a favourite TV show or film
- Make sure they drink plenty of fluids, even if they don’t want to eat much
A couple of things I used to do with my little ones when they had a blocked up nose was to run a very hot shower with the bathroom doors and windows shut. I would sit with them in the bathroom inhaling the steam and this would help with their blocked nose and get them breathing more easily. Plus it was great for my skin! I also found raising the head of their beds either with a couple of books or sometimes I would put a pillow under the mattress where their head was to keep their head slightly raised which helped them breathe.
Try to avoid contact with vulnerable people (like the frail elderly or babies). Although easier said than done also try and take care of yourself. It’s hard enough looking after a sick child, but even harder when you’re unwell too.
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