It’s that time of the year again – cold and flu season! While most adults get the occasional cold, kids can get 8 or more per year. So you’re not alone if you feel like your child is sick all of the time!
A cold is typically caused by rhinoviruses which can get into your nose and throat and cause a reaction in your immune system. This reaction leads to a sore throat, headache and mucous. While dry air can lower resistance to an infection making it more likely you will catch a virus, colds are not caused by going outside without a jacket when it’s chilly or sleeping with wet hair! The best way to prevent a cold is with good hand hygiene, so lots of hand washing. And try to encourage your kids to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their elbow instead of their hands.
Colds usually start with a tickle in the throat, runny nose or sneezing. Kids can also feel tired, have a sore throat, cough, headache, mild fever and just feel achy. Many kids will have decreased appetite (which is ok as long as they are drinking and well hydrated.) They may even have thick green or yellow mucous associated with the virus.
The best treatment for colds is supportive care. You can run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where your child can sit to help clear stuffiness, dab petroleum jelly under their nose to soothe rawness and put the occasional saline drops in the nostrils to decrease nasal congestion. If your child is older than 6 months, I have also found a nighttime dose of ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) can help to decrease inflammation and indirectly help with their cough, so they get a better night sleep.
The flu has similar symptoms to a common cold, but adults and children with the flu usually feel much sicker and more miserable. Flu season usually runs from early fall to spring, with the majority of cases coming during the winter months. The flu usually lasts a week or two, with most people recovering without any other complications. However, you should make sure to see the pediatrician to confirm the diagnosis, detect possible complications such as pneumonia, and receive appropriate treatment. Many people chose to take Tamiflu (by prescription) to get over the flu more quickly and to decrease the chance of complications. This medication works best when started within 48 hours of symptoms, so make sure you see your pediatrician during that time period if you suspect the flu.
The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent you or your child from getting the flu. The flu vaccine is an inactive vaccine, so it is impossible to get the flu from the flu vaccine. Most people just have a little muscle soreness around the injection site. Even if you get the flu during the same season that you received the vaccine, the flu tends to be a lot less severe than if you didn’t receive the vaccine.
As always, when suffering from cold or flu symptoms, make sure to see your pediatrician if your child is getting worse, has a bad cough, difficulty breathing, is not able to keep liquids down, has a fever (especially if it last greater than 48 hours), chest or stomach pain, irritability or unusual tiredness or lethargy.
Riverside Pediatrics has a walk-in urgent care 365 days a year on evenings, weekends and holidays open to all children (not just Riverside Pediatrics patients). Visit their office at: 1171 E. Putnam Ave. 2B, Riverside, CT 06878 (203)629-5800
Visit www.riversideCTpediatrics.com for more!