Sick Kids? Here’s How to Survive Cold and Flu Season
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When cold and flu season begins, it can affect absolutely everyone. But if you have kids, your family is even more susceptible – and far more likely to get sick. And when the cold or flu strikes, it can mean missing school, work, and all kinds of other responsibilities.
If you’re facing cold and flu season with your family, here are a few tips to help you and your kids stay healthy.
Is Your Child Sick? Here’s How to Tell
One of the most important questions to ask during cold and flu season is this: “Is my child sick?” While a case of the sniffles could be something as simple as allergies, it could also be an indicator of the cold or flu.
And in order to care for both your kids and yourself, you need to figure out if your child is sick, fast. Then, you’ll need to determine whether you’re dealing with a cold or the flu. Cold and flu symptoms can be very similar. They can also be very difficult to distinguish when you’re trying to diagnose your child’s symptoms.
Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses – though they’re two very different viruses. A cold can be caused by a number of different viruses that circulate during cold and flu season. The flu, however, is caused by a specific influenza virus (or a few of them) each year.
Here are a few ways you can determine what a cold looks like versus what the flu looks like.
The Common Cold
If your child has a cold, you’ll likely see symptoms like a cough, sore throat, and congestion. However, these can also be symptoms of the flu.
When a cold strikes, it progresses slowly. Typically, a cold’s symptoms start to appear gradually – and they worsen as the cold runs its course. Your child will likely begin feeling a sore throat first. Within three to 10 days, further symptoms will appear, including a mild fever, a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and a cough.
The symptoms of the flu can vary each season. As different strains of the flu virus circulate during cold and flu season, your child could either exhibit symptoms that are very similar to the common cold or symptoms that are very different.
The flu’s symptoms tend to appear suddenly. Your child will likely develop symptoms that include a high fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, and weakness or tiredness. Vomiting could also be a symptom.
Caring for Kids with a Cold or Flu
When your child comes down with a cold or the flu, their symptoms will determine what kind of care they need.
And while it might be tempting to run to the doctor for a round of antibiotics, it’s important to remember that these medications won’t help a cold or the flu. Antibiotics can’t help a virus – your child’s immune system has to tackle the illness.
But there are ways you can easily treat both the symptoms of the cold or flu and help your child feel as comfortable as possible. Try these tips the next time the common cold or flu is circulating through your family.
Encourage Your Kids to Drink Fluids
Being well-hydrated can help fight some cold and flu symptoms. Drinking water can help soothe a sore throat, but it also prevents dehydration. And if a cold or the flu is making your child less thirsty, you’ll want to make sure they’re getting enough fluids.
Hydration is especially important if your child has a fever. Fevers can dehydrate the body, so encourage fluids like water, rehydration solutions like Pedialyte, popsicles, or juice.
Use a Humidifier
If a stuffy nose is your child’s biggest symptom, you don’t need to rely on medication to alleviate that sinus pressure. You can use a humidifier for more natural relief. A cool-mist humidifier placed in your kid’s room can help break up mucus and get them breathing more easily.
Encourage More Rest
Your child may love to be on the move when they’re feeling well, but a cold or the flu can strip anyone’s energy. Fortunately, slowing down and getting more rest than normal can help your child recover faster.
To encourage your kid to get more rest – even if a fever or other symptoms are making them uncomfortable – keep them comfortable. Have them nap more often, or for longer periods. Dress them in lightweight pajamas and avoid wrapping them in thick blankets or layers.
Visit the Doctor
If you’re trying to decide what medications can help your child’s symptoms, or you’re worried that the cold or flu is worsening, make an appointment with your child’s doctor.
Your doctor will be able to recommend the best medications and further treatment options. This can help you determine which over-the-counter medications are safe for your child’s age, or if other medications may be necessary.
And, if your child is exhibiting dangerous symptoms like a fever over 101 degrees or a lack of appetite, make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Keep Your Family Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
The best way to keep both yourself and your family healthy when cold and flu season arrives? Avoid these viruses altogether.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Kids can pick up the cold or flu at school, when playing with friends, or even by joining you on errands. But there are tips you can use to lower the risk of your child bringing home the common cold or the flu.
If you’d like to prevent a bad bout of the flu or a lengthy cold this year, try these tips to keep everyone safe:
- Get a flu shot. The flu shot may not be 100 percent effective, but it can reduce you and your child’s risk of getting the flu by 50 to 60 percent.
- Wash hands frequently. Wash your hands, wash your kids’ hands, wash everyone’s hands. Washing at least four times per day can reduce the number of days kids are out sick.
- Get plenty of rest. Sleeping well keeps the body healthy and the immune system strong. Help kids stick to a regular bedtime to ensure they’re getting enough sleep.
- Prevent and avoid sharing. Kids love to share, but sharing breeds and spreads germs. Encourage your kids to stop sharing personal items. Teach them to not shore straws, cups, eating utensils, hats, scarves, or anything that touches the mouth or face.
With these strategies, you may be able to keep colds and the flu out of your home – and your family as healthy as possible. But, if illness does strike during cold and flu season, you can reduce your child’s downtime and symptoms by sticking to tried and true symptom relief methods.
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