Pediatricians consider a fever significant when it's above 100.4 degrees. Call your pediatrician if your child is younger than 4 months and has a fever; has other symptoms along with the fever; is a toddler who has had a fever for more than three days; or is an older child with a fever for six days. In other cases, it's usually safe to use children's ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Never give a child aspirin – it poses a risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious illness that affects the liver and brain. A sponge bath with lukewarm water may help. Never use cold water, ice, or rubbing alcohol. Dress your child lightly and don’t pile on blankets. Watch for signs of dehydration.
Call the doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if your infant has dry diapers, a dry mouth or tongue, or is crying with no tears. For an older child, call the doctor if he appears dehydrated and is not drinking. Aside from fever and dehydration, call your pediatrician if your child: Is younger than 6 months and you think he has the flu; has mucus coming from the nose that is thick and yellow or has any discharge after 10 days; or has any discharge from the eyes. Go to the emergency room if your child has trouble breathing, doesn't cry or respond to you, refuses to eat, has a rash, or experiences a febrile seizure.
Some studies show chicken soup may help reduce inflammation. If nothing else, it's nutritious and can help prevent dehydration. Also give plenty of other fluids, like water or juice. Other home remedies to try: Inhaled steam from a hot shower or a cool mist vaporizer may help a stuffy nose. Menthol chest rubs can help loosen mucus to be coughed out. Do not use medicated vapor in children under 2. Petroleum jelly under the nose can soothe irritated skin.
Most sore throats are caused by colds and last about four to five days. For kids over the age of 2,give warm tea or water with a ½ tsp. of honey and lemon to ease a sore throat and cough.
For kids over the age of three, hard candy or over-the-counter lozenges with anesthetic can help reduce pain. Gargling with warm salt water may help, too. Strep throat tends to come on suddenly and not be accompanied by cold symptoms. Call your doctor if you suspect strep -- your child needs antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Don't give over-the-counter cold medicine or cough medicine to children younger than 4. Several studies have shown that these OTC medicines don't actually help symptoms in children so young. In fact, they may cause serious and potentially life-threatening side effects. To ease cold symptoms, give extra fluids, use a nasal aspirator, and use a humidifier. Choose medicines only for the symptoms your child has. So, it's OK to give one multi-symptom over-the-counter medicine – as long as it fits your child's symptoms. To avoid over-medicating your child, read and follow the directions, use the measuring device that is packaged with the medication, and don't choose products that treat symptoms your child doesn't have. For instance, don't choose a multi-symptom cold medicine or cough medicine for only a sore throat.
Be sure you don't give your child two over-the-counter medicines with the same active ingredients. For example, many cold medicines for kids contain acetaminophen – which is the same as Tylenol. In the same way, a cough medication may also contain other ingredients to treat decongestion. So it's easy to unintentionally double a child's dose if you don't read carefully. Compare ingredients in the 'Drug Facts' box so you don't risk giving your child an overdose.
Decongestants shrink stuffy nasal passages. They're available as nasal sprays or oral medicine. Nasal sprays should not be used for more than 2-3 days in a row. Cough expectorants may help thin mucus so it can be coughed up. Your child needs to drink a lot of water for an expectorant to work. Cough suppressants don't help get rid of mucus. Even if a cough keeps a child awake at night, it's usually better not to suppress it.
Dose OTC medication according to the directions based on your child's age and weight. Read the "Warnings" sections for possible drug interactions and side effects. Pay attention to label abbreviations like Tbsp (tablespoon) and Tsp (teaspoon), oz. (ounces), ml. (milliliter), and mg. (milligram). Those are all very different measurements. And use the measuring device that is packaged with the medication.
Rest is one of the best remedies for a cold, so let her sleep. If that means skipping a dose of over-the-counter medicine, don't worry -- give the next dose when she wakes up, or wait until morning.
To be safe, avoid using common kitchen spoons, which can significantly vary in size. If your child's over-the-counter medicine came with its own cup or spoon, be sure to use it. What if there is no measuring device with the medication and the label says to give a dose of 2 teaspoons? Use an actual measuring spoon or dosing cup marked in teaspoons. That way you'll know you gave him the right dose -- enough to work, but not too much.
If your child vomits up his medicine or spits some of it out, you may be tempted to give another dose. But you can't be sure how much of the OTC medicine your child actually swallowed, and giving another full dose risks giving too much. Instead, call your pediatrician for instructions. If your child hates the taste of the medicine, ask your pharmacist if you can mix it with a favorite food or drink.
Never give your child OTC medicines that are meant for adults. You'll just be guessing at the right dose, and some medicines are formulated differently for children. Use only products that are labeled for use in babies, infants, or children ("for pediatric use"). Don't call OTC medicine "candy."
Kids, especially young ones, love to imitate what adults do. Take these precautions:
- Avoid taking your own prescription or OTC medication in front of children.
- Be sure you never call any medicine "candy."
- Don't use sweet-tasting medication -- like children's vitamins -- as a reward. You can offer a favorite drink afterward to "wash the taste away."
Natural Cold & Flu Remedies
It’s no wonder natural cold and flu remedies are popular – modern medicine has yet to offer a cure for these age-old ailments. While some antiviral drugs can prevent and shorten the flu’s duration, most medications only offer temporary relief of symptoms. Many natural remedies provide temporary relief as well, and a few may actually help you get better. See which cold and flu remedies show the most promise.
Echinacea is an herbal supplement that can boost immune system activity. But it’s unclear whether this boost helps fight off colds or flu. Some researchers have reported no benefits, but at least one recent study paints a more positive picture. Participants who took echinacea shortened their colds by an average of 1.4 days. Still, experts remain skeptical, and it’s best to check with a doctor before trying this or other herbal remedies.
Some studies show that Zinc appears to have antiviral properties. There is some evidence the mineral may prevent the formation of certain proteins that cold viruses use to reproduce themselves. While zinc does not appear to help prevent colds, some research suggests it may help shorten cold symptom duration. The FDA recommends against using zinc nasal products for colds because of reports of permanent loss of smell.
The cold-fighting prowess of vitamin C remains uncertain. While vitamin C doesn’t seem to prevent colds, some studies suggest it can help shorten the duration of the common cold slightly. In one large study, people recovered from colds more quickly after taking a megadose (8,000 milligrams) on the first day of the cold. But taking more than 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day may cause kidney stones and diarrhea.
Grandma was onto something. Chicken soup may help cold symptoms in more than one way. Inhaling the steam can ease nasal congestion. Sipping spoonfuls of fluid can help avoid dehydration. And some advocates say the soup may soothe inflammation. Researchers have found chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties in the lab, though it’s unclear whether this effect translates to real-world colds.
Drinking hot tea offers some of the same benefits as chicken soup. Inhaling the steam relieves congestion, while swallowing the fluid soothes the throat and keeps you hydrated. Black and green teas have the added bonus of being loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.
Garlic has long been touted for legendary germ-fighting abilities. While there is not enough research to recommend it as a cold remedy, garlic is very nutritious. In addition, it can help spice up your meals when a stuffy nose makes everything taste bland.
For a heavy dose of steam, use a room humidifier – or simply sit in the bathroom with the door shut and a hot shower running. Breathing in steam can break up congestion in the nasal passages, offering relief from a stuffy or runny nose.
Dripping saltwater into the nose can remove virus and bacteria particles, while reducing congestion. Try over-the-counter saline drops, or make your own by mixing 8 ounces of warm water with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Use a bulb syringe to squirt the mixture into one nostril while holding the other one closed. Repeat 2-3 times and then do the other side.
For a more systematic nasal rinse, the neti pot is an option. This small ceramic pot is used to flush out the nasal passages with a saltwater solution – a process known as nasal irrigation. The result is thinner mucus that drains more easily. Research suggests neti pots are useful in relieving sinus symptoms, such as congestion, pressure, and facial pain, particularly in patients with chronic sinus troubles.
Days of wiping and blowing your nose can leave the skin around your nostrils sore and irritated. A simple remedy is to dab a menthol-infused ointment under, but not in, the nose. Menthol has mild numbing agents that can relieve the pain of raw skin. As an added benefit, breathing in the medicated vapors that contain menthol or camphor can help open clogged passages and relieve cough due to colds. Use only in children over 2 years of age.
For a sore throat, the traditional saltwater gargle has merit. Gargling warm water with a teaspoon of salt four times daily can help keep a scratchy throat moist.
Let Your Fever Work
A fever is the original natural remedy. The rise in temperature actively fights colds and flu by making your body inhospitable for germs. Endure a moderate fever for a couple of days to get better faster. Just be sure to stay well hydrated. Call your doctor right away if the fever is over 105, unless it comes down quickly with treatment. In infants 3 months or younger call your doctor for any fever greater than 100.4. Children with a fever of less than 102 usually don’t require treatment unless they’re uncomfortable.
With our busy lives, most of us loathe to spend a day or two under the covers. But getting plenty of rest lets your body direct more energy to fighting off germs. Staying warm is also important, so tuck yourself in and give your immune cells a leg up in their noble battle.