We have all suffered with colds throughout our lifetime. A cold or URI/upper respiratory infection can be miserable. URI symptoms are cough, congestion, runny nose (clear or yellowish), low-grade fevers (<102F), sore throat, decreased appetite, disturbed sleep and overall just miserable feeling. If fevers accompany the cough and congestion, a day off to rest isn’t a bad idea no matter what your age. If there is no fever with the cold symptoms, most people just continue on through their daily routine.
I know what you are thinking… Yes, children do get colds more frequently than adults! Fortunately and unfortunately, childhood is a time of building immunity; good in the long run, but growing pains along the way. It is true that the more organisms you are exposed to, the stronger your immune system gets.
So, what can you do to make life a little less miserable for your child with a cold??
There are a few simple rules….
Rule #1 – HYDRATION, HYDRATION, HYDRATION!!! Drink plenty of fluids. Adding Pedialyte or Vitamin water can help, this helps to replace any loss of electrolytes, salts, sugars, etc. from the cold and fever. I’m not a fan of Gatorade, too much high fructose corn syrup. If you learn nothing else from my post, you will learn about how important it is to be hydrated! 🙂
Rule #2 – Blow your nose. This is hard for young children, but can be accomplished with continued practice and effort. For babies, use saline drops and a bulb syringe to help with the nasal drainage.
Rule #3 – Increase your Vitamin C intake. I recommend 500-1000mg to my young patients, 1000-1500mg to the adolescents. Vitamin C is great for boosting the immune system into gear, helping it fight off the cold. We like the chewable Vitamin C in my house, they taste like sweet-tarts, just a little more tart. Josh ate 8 of them one day (500mg each x 8 = 4000mg), and then told me how good they were! I told him that he really shouldn’t have that many, although Vitamin C is not toxic. Crazy kid! (You will start seeing a pattern with this kid, he keeps us on our toes around here.)
Rule #4 – Use a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room while they are sleeping. Don’t forget to pull the door closed, leaving a few inches for ventilation. Keeping the child’s head elevated is helpful too. Infants should have their mattress elevated on an angle, a pillow should never be used under an infant to elevate his head.
Rule #5 – Get plenty of REST! Children and adults need to take time to rest and let their body fight off the cold. Our bodies heal during sleep, sleep is so important to maintaining good health. (I will address sleep soon.)
All of the above can help your child be more comfortable. There are some other helpful hints that may or may not be useful for you. Keep in mind, all children are different, and have similar but different needs. Some children will be more clingy and want to be with you 24/7.
Some children just need you to hold and love them because they don’t feel good. It makes them fell better to have your hugs and kisses. There is nothing like the love of a parent to make you feel better!
Other helpful hints:
- Take Motrin (Ibuprofen) for comfort. It can also be helpful with the swelling and inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. Nasal congestion is not just a runny nose. Most of the little noses I see are so swollen inside, some of them hardly have any room to breath, and many are breathing through their mouth. I’m sure this sounds familiar, most children will breath through their mouth when they have a cold, and this is exactly why!
- The latest research shows that giving a spoonful of honey is more helpful than a spoonful of cough medicine! I advise my patients to use Honey for that daytime cough. Honey tastes good, isn’t full of chemicals, and you cannot overdose on it! I think it is great that we are getting back to natural vs. chemical!! 🙂
- Taking an antihistamine or decongestant is helpful for some people. I frequently recommend Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) at bedtime. I think this helps the child get some sleep and also helps to dry up some of the congestion. I think Benadryl is too sedating to give more than 1-2x a day, and don’t recommend daytime dosing unless the child is home and can nap. For Drew Elizabeth I use Claritin (Loratadine) instead of Benadryl. I do this because she has mild allergies and takes Claritin on a daily basis anyway. Also, I can give her the Claritin in the morning and it doesn’t make her sleepy. DO NOT use 2 allergy medications at the same time! Some decongestants such as Dimetapp and Robitussin can be helpful, but usually do little more than treat the cough for a few hours. DO NOT give Dimetapp Cold and Allergy with another allergy medication. Dimetapp makes a Cold and Cough and a Cold and Allergy. Please read labels carefully!!
- I think cough drops can be helpful too. I personally like Ricola. No, I don’t get paid by Ricola. Do you hear the horn in the background, Riiicooolaaaa ;-)! The natural herbs just seem to be helpful for the sore throat and cough that accompany most colds. Please keep in mind any hard object like cough drops can be a choking hazard for young children.
- Another helpful tip that a friend reminded me of after I wrote the cough post, was sinus rinses. Thanks, Ami Jo! 🙂 If you have never tried it, don’t knock it. Most people will say yuck, until they have tried it. A sinus rinse is a great way to help with a cold or allergies. I have parents that report back to me and swear by them. Sinus rinses can be really helpful for allergy sufferers.
Please visit your child’s pediatric provider if they have a high fever, are uncomfortable when laying down (can be a sign of an ear infection because the pressure increases when they lay down), aren’t drinking and eating, or exhibit any signs of breathing problems. Colds should get worse for a few days (3-5), then start to gradually get better.
Well, that is enough information for now, this was supposed to be a short post! Oops. Too many helpful tips, I guess.
Keep in mind, all children are different!! Some need more intervention then others while they suffer through yet another cold along this journey we call Life. Hope this information is helpful for all of you Moms and Dads out there! (Yes, this one’s for you, Ryan!) Thanks for reading.
I hope you are taking time to enjoy the journey!