Cold season is dreaded by even experienced parents. It can feel like winter just brings illness after illness to your kids, interrupting their sleep, making them miserable and keeping them home from school.
When colds seem to drag on forever, it can be hard to tell if your child is about to turn a corner or if they need to go to the doctor. From prevention to treatment and severe symptoms to watch out for, here are five things to know about kids and colds.
Practice good hygiene
Prevention is often the best medicine. Colds can be difficult to avoid, but good hygiene practices may help your child stave off illness. Teach your kids to wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer. If your kid thinks washing their hands means turning the water on and getting a finger wet, help them wash correctly by singing “Happy Birthday” twice or their ABCs while sudsing up. A good hand wash takes 20 seconds, so kids need to learn to take their time. When your kids do get sick, have them cough and sneeze into their elbow and wash their hands after blowing their nose. Keeping their germs to themselves will help slow the spread of the cold to other people.
Is it a cold or the flu?
At the height of flu season, many parents may worry that every sniffle will lead to the flu. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two illnesses, especially if the cold is severe. In general, a cold will come on slower than the flu and the child will have no fever or a mild one. The child may still have an appetite with a cold and will only slow down a little. A flu, on the other hand, will cause severe exhaustion, aches, low appetite and chills. The symptoms for the cold and flu can vary with each child, so deciding which illness your child has may not be simple. If you think your child might have the flu, be sure to see your doctor.
Getting multiple colds is normal
During some winters, it can seem like your child is always sick. That may be the case, and it isn’t unusual for a kid to be hit with several colds each year. On average, kids will get eight to ten colds a year, and each illness can last for a couple of weeks. Although colds are more common during the winter, they can happen anytime during the year.
Don’t rush for a prescription
A parent‘s first instinct when their child is sick is to make them better, but colds just need to run their course. Don’t head to your doctor and demand antibiotics for your child’s cold. A cold is usually caused by a virus, and antibiotics will not do any good. Instead, treat your child’s symptoms with acetaminophen and ibuprofen and help them get rest. Give them lots of fluids to help with a cough or sore throat. Fluids also thin out mucus, which will help them breathe better. Putting a cool mist humidifier by their bed at night will also help keep their airways clear.
When to call a doctor
While most colds just need time to get better on their own, sometimes heading to the doctor is necessary. Take your child to the doctor if they have a high fever or one that isn’t going away. Watch your child’s cough and take them in if the coughing makes it difficult to breathe, eat, or sleep. Stuffy noses should begin to get better in about 10 days, though it can take longer for it to get completely better. Take your child in for a severe sore throat or one that has no other cold symptoms. A child with fast or shallow breathing, blue lips or who has difficulty breathing and is in distress should also been seen by a doctor. Typical colds can lead to ear infections, so go to the doctor if your child has ear pain with a fever or ear pain without a fever that persists longer than two days. It can be difficult to decide whether your child’s symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor’s office. Even if you aren’t sure, give your doctor a call. The doctor can help decide if your child should be seen and help ease your mind.