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Moms: How to Sleep Soundly, Even When You’re Sick

Sore throat. Stuffy nose. Wheezing cough. When you’re sick with a cold or flu, all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a week or two. But your pesky symptoms make it impossible to rest easy. When bedtime finally rolls around, you actually feel worse than you did during the day.

“When you have a cold or the flu, congestion worsens at night,” says Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the respiratory care department of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Cold and Flu. “When you lie down, the airways are more likely to become clogged with mucus.”

Here’s how to stop tossing and turning, and get a restorative night’s sleep.

  1. Have a tea party. Before you go to bed, sip a mug of decaffeinated black tea. The antioxidant-rich beverage contains theobromine, which is a natural cough suppressant, and the heat thins mucus. Add lemon to help cut through congestion and honey to soothe the throat.
  2. Rinse away congestion. Wash away gunk that’s interfering with your breathing by doing regular nasal rinses. Nasal rinse kits can be found at most drugstores and are easy and painless to use. Essentially, you are rinsing your nasal cavity with a mixture of distilled water and sodium. This helps to clear passages and keep them moist. If you’re uncomfortable with a nose rinse, try a saline nasal spray instead. This also helps to flush out the nose, which makes breathing easier, says Dr. Schachter.
  3. Pamper a sore throat. “The throat feels sore during an infection because the mucus that is lining the throat is filled with inflammatory compounds,” says Dr. Schachter. Add half a teaspoon table salt to warm water, gargle for 10 seconds and spit out. Removing the virus-laden mucus relieves both sore throat and coughing.
  4. Darken your bedroom. It’s important to create a healthy environment that promotes quality sleep. Since incoming light tells the brain to wake up, try to block morning light from reaching your eyes. You can accomplish this by hanging dark curtains or by wearing a comfortable sleep mask that covers your eyes. Also, if you have a brightly illuminated alarm clock, make sure it’s not facing you during the night.
  5. Keep it cool. In your bedroom, set the thermostat low. When your body temperature drops, your brain goes into sleep mode. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 54 F and 75 F.
  6. Take a hot shower. Before bed, muster the strength to take a hot shower. When you get out, the drop in body temperature helps prepare your brain for sleep. Bonus: Steam loosens congestion and hydrates your nasal and throat passages.
  7. Slip on socks. Put on a pair of cozy socks before you get into bed. According to a Swiss study, warming your feet helps your body relax and puts you in the snooze zone.
  8. Silence symptoms. Some common symptoms, such as a cough and congestion, can make restful sleep a real challenge when you’re sick. Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate these uncomfortable obstacles to a good night’s sleep.
  9. Elevate your head. When you’re sick, sleep with your head elevated. Prop yourself up with a few extra pillows or the plump cushions from your sofa. Sleeping elevated helps ease sinus pressure and makes breathing less difficult.
  10. Quiet your mind. Even when you’re exhausted and not feeling well, sometimes you can have a mental block that prevents you from falling asleep. To get into the right frame of mind, try one of these calming pursuits: meditate, jot your thoughts into a journal, listen to soothing music or read your favorite book.

Kids Will Get Sick: 5 Facts a Pediatrician Wants You to Know

girl_high_fever_mom_checking_tempThe warnings you were given as a child about not going out with your hair wet or you’d catch pneumonia, don’t sit too close to the television or you’ll damage your eyesight – it’s probably safe to say what they lacked in accuracy they made up for in good intentions. But as we enter into the time of year when colds and other infections seem to thrive, it seemed like a good opportunity to set the record straight, debunk some of the myths and provide you with some useful information to get you through the worst of it…just in case you or someone else in your family starts to feel sick…

Fallacies vs Realities:

  1. Being out in the cold or wet weather can lead to a “cold” in a child. A “cold” or an upper respiratory infection is almost always due to a viral infection which, aside from certain colds being more prominent during certain seasons, is unrelated to the outdoor temperature. A cold happens when a viral agent attaches to the inside of the mouth nose or eyes. The viral particles enter the very specialized cells in these areas and replicate in to more of the same particles and even fever which then can invade further causing the associated symptoms. The same is true for the fear of “catching pneumonia” when one gets cold and/or wet.
  2. When the mucus in one’s nose green it automatically signifies the onset of sinus infection or contagious disease. A sinus infection is not contagious for the same reason that it occurs. Inflammation or possibly bacteria works its way into the sinus cavities, set up shop and cause the symptoms of the resulting pain and sometimes swelling. The reason, as with ear infections, that these are not contagious is that both of these occur in fairly small closed spaces and the inner contents cannot get out; concurrently antibiotics have a difficult time getting in, so it usually takes c little longer to cure these infections. For a frame of reference, consider the rapid “cure” that occurs when one contracts strep throat, an easily accessible area, after antibiotics are used.
  3. Once the fever is down after the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen during an illness, that illness is over and the concentration should be placed on “breaking” the fever. In fact each illness has its own symptoms, including how high the fever goes or how long it lasts. Some fevers do come and go within the same illness and the use of medications to” cure” the fever and hence the illness is fallacious. Certainly one will want to give their child some relief from the symptoms and these medications are good for that reason.
  4. A child who has a “high” fever will get brain damage. In fact, fever itself is merely a symptom of an illness such as other symptoms; runny nose, cough, headache, etc. While high fever itself is seldom ever responsible for brain damage some very rare but very significant illnesses for which the fever may be an accompanying symptom may result in brain damage: e., meningitis, encephalitis and others. But to be complete, and fair to all parents worrying about their child with fever, fever by itself is not the only symptom one sees with such serious illnesses. If there is a very high fever, contact with your Doctor will help sort through the causes.
  5. High fever will cause seizures in my child. There is a small population of children who will, in fact, develop a mild, non-harmful seizure during the initial rise in that fever. Although these seizures are not harmful to your child, it is important to know if there might be another reason for such seizures, and your child should be seen by a physician immediately- usually an Emergency room Doctor. Also a little known fact is that the seizure will only seldom repeat itself during the same illness. Again the parents will want to use a medicine for fever because of the discomfort your child will have and the fact that another seizure is possible.

These are just a few; more to come down the road…

8 Steps to Boost Your Child’s Immune System

Editor’s Note: This is not an article about how to keep your kids safe from Coronavirus – our focus is to improve your child’s overall health and immune system. The healthier we can keep them, the more we improve their chances of fighting off each new bug that comes their way

The best offense is a good defense. It’s a saying that holds as true for football as it does for cold and flu season. But fending off colds doesn’t just mean reminding your kids to wash their hands. “How much you sleep, what you eat and how you spend your free time all play a role in having a strong immune system,” says Dr. Alan Greene, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and an attending pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.

Follow this eight-step plan to keep your little ones — and you — healthy, happy and sniffle-free:

Scale back on sweets. According to the American Heart Association, the average American gets about 22 teaspoons of added sugar in one day — more than three times the amount the organization recommends. Not only can an excess of the sweet stuff pave the way for weight gain, but it can also wear down the immune system. “Refined sugar causes blood sugar spikes, which compromise white blood cells, the body’s first line of defense against colds,” says Greene. To scale back, swap out your kid’s soda for water and offer fruit instead of candy. The American Heart Association advises that children ages 4 to 8 who get about 1,600 calories a day should limit their sugar intake to 3 teaspoons — or 12 grams — a day.

Clear the air. Here’s another reason to protect your child from secondhand smoke and chemical-based household cleaners: “These pollutants damage cilia, the tiny hairs in your nose that help block viruses,” says Greene. Declare your home and car smoke-free zones, and use gentler cleaners — or save the serious scrubbing for the times your kid’s in day care or on a playdate.

Let ’em laugh. When life gets hectic, it’s sometimes simpler to rush through your day without cracking a smile. But taking time to have fun and giggle with your family is crucial for your well-being. In fact, research from Japan’s Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine found that watching funny movies boosts the production of the body’s natural cold- and flu-killing cells. Try having a tickle-fest, or pop in a chuckle-worthy DVD.

Serve some bacteria. The good kind, that is! “Probiotics strengthen the immune system,” says Greene. “The trick is giving your child enough of these friendly bacteria.” He recommends looking for a product with 5 to 10 billion units from more than one strain of probiotics, such as a combination of lactobacillus and bifidus regularis. Most yogurts contain only 1 billion units per serving, so consider stocking up on fortified juices too.

Score some D-fense. Not getting enough of this vitamin, which the body converts from sunlight, can increase your odds of catching a cold by up to 40 percent, reports a study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Because it’s very difficult to consume that much from foods (good sources include dairy and seafood), look to supplement your child’s diet with a vitamin that contains at least 600 IU of D, the amount recommended by the Institutes of Medicine. Pick a brand with D3, the form that’s more readily absorbed by the body.

Stress less. Too much tension can trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that dampens your body’s defenses, says Greene. Of course, it’s impossible to rid your child’s life of all stresses, but teaching him coping techniques can help him better deal with them. The next time he seems anxious, have him lie down with one hand on his tummy. Ask him to take deep breath; his stomach should push against his hand when he inhales and move away when he exhales. Eventually, he’ll learn to take these “belly breaths” when he’s feeling frustrated.

Get moving. Freezing outside? Resist the temptation to camp out in front of the television. Staying active provides a number of healthy benefits, including a stronger immune system. According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who worked out five days a week came down with 46-percent fewer colds than their couch-potato counterparts. So bundle up and go on a family walk or create an indoor obstacle course.

Have a set bedtime. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who logged more quality shut-eye were five times less likely to get a cold than those who tended to toss and turn. Experts recommend that children younger than 12 should log 10 hours of sleep a night, one- to three-year-olds should get 12 to 14 hours, and those younger than 1 need 14 to 15 hours. To help put your little one — and colds — to bed, create an evening ritual that signals it’s time for sleep, like reading a favorite book or doing a few easy stretches.

Time for Colds and The Flu: What Can You & Your Family Do?

All the bugs and bacteria that plague human kind are essentially trapped indoors over the cold winter months: windows seldom get opened and cars are sealed shut with the heat on, schools harbor a variety of illnesses and are also sealed shut with temperatures way too high. It’s no wonder that this is a perfect season to share whatever cold or Flu with your closest neighbor. Young children, especially, are not the poster kids for hygiene, and touching and tasting the environment gives infants and toddlers a window on the world. Illnesses that get started in your child can spread rapidly to all members of the family.

Children Flu Sneeze Elbow SickViral infections and Flu are composed of minute particles that are just waiting for an opportunity to invade the next host. The easiest way to gain entry to the human body is through the mucous membranes that we all have – moist skin that you seldom think about; inside your nose, throat, lining your eyeballs, etc. Once they gain entry they invade normal cells and begin to replicate, reproducing themselves and in so doing, alter or kill the host cells. Whichever cells are involved and how your body reacts to the invasion will dictate the symptoms that you will experience. Most invasions are short lived and most for the purposes of this post are in the respiratory tract, upper (nose and throat) and lower (trachea and lungs).

How to cure a “cold” has been a mystery for scientists forever, but since they are short lived and generally do not produce major problems it has never been worth the resources to attempt multiple and complicated testing to nail down a cure. So viral colds live on and disrupt many lifestyles along the way. The favorite medicines in the world to attempt to cure just about anything are antibiotics, but to do so will not only have no effect on the cold but can cause problems of their own – resistances by bacteria to the antibiotic and reactions to that medicine. So we are left with “taking care” of the cold with various simple measures. Over the counter cold medicines have been shown to have very little effect on the symptoms or length of a cold and also have unwanted side effects.

How to prevent a cold or Flu, or viral illness from spreading is the main issue. Since these particles gain entry through mucus membranes, and are usually carried to that area by contact with your own colonized hands, it is very important to wash hands regularly and completely. Too often this is a cursory act of applying soap and washing it off, but scrubbing the hands for about 20 seconds (enough time to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) is usually necessary to do an adequate job. Avoid touching your face as most mucus membranes are in that area, especially your eyes. Of course the group that is most important (children) is not usually compliant with these issues, so you must teach this at home. Spread can also occur by droplets pushed into the air by coughing and sneezing and then transferred to others on your hands. Sneeze into the inside of your elbow and avoid spreading droplets into the air around you.

Unfortunately simple apparent cures, taking extra vitamins, etc. have been shown to have very little if any effect on a cold.

So, bear with it, it will be over soon, and do your best not to share it with anyone. And remember to get Flu immunization for your entire family (age six months and older) as soon as it comes out on the market, and since some Flu seasons can last into April get that Flu vaccine even in early March if you missed it at the end of last year.

Why is my Child’s Flu so Hard to Treat?

Unique Influenza:

I. First – You need to know a little about what makes this such a tough bug to prevent….

a) To do that you need to understand the nature of this virus – in particular that it is continuously changing / evolving.

Before we discuss the Flu virus and its effects on human beings it is important to know some basic background information. The Influenza viral particle at the microscopic level is unique in that its many protein particles are attached in random order to receptor cells on the surface of the viral particle itself and each one is capable of changing the characteristics of the particle in such a way that it will have altered effects on the host (humans). A virus causes its effects on the host by attaching to the host’s respiratory cells and in some way alters the function or structure of the cell so that the invading virus can replicate using the host cells’ capabilities. Replication of a species is a common goal for all living creatures no matter how large or small.

Before we see the Influenza virus as we know it in humans it has spent several replication cycles in various animal species over time such as birds, pigs, and humans. With each pass through of a species, the virus has a chance to change or mutate into a different breed with possible different characteristics and therefore effects on the human host.

b) And you need to understand a little about how vaccines are developed – and that we need to have them ready “before” our flu season starts, but that can be problematic with a continuously changing bug..

Viral immunizations are created by using the viral particle to develop antibodies to aid our own very sophisticated immune system to function in a more effective manner and rid ourselves of the offending invader. As you can imagine, this process of developing that immunization can be a long and arduous one and effected by forces not easily seen or appreciated by us, the consumer. Economic and yes political forces are at play in developing a new immunization to be used each year. First the virus of the year needs to be isolated prior to the infection season, which is the cold weather season of the year. Often times we find that particular viral particle in countries that are in the southern hemisphere and therefore have reversed seasons; a lot of our information on the type of virus comes from the Australian experience with the illness. It then must be isolated and a viable strain must be grown near a laboratory so that it can be used in the process of developing the vaccine before the pharmaceutical companies can gear up for production.

While all this is happening and just to confuse things more, the Flu virus may continue to change and eventually present us with a different illness than the newly developed immunization will cover! And a further confusing issue is that no matter how well any vaccine is manufactured it is never 100% effective in deterring the illness; the most effective vaccines made are only about 90% effective while the Influenza vaccine is at most 60% effective (some reports of much lower than that can be found). Those who may have been immunized and still manage to get the illness should experience a much lighter case.

II. And Then Why It’s So Difficult to Treat and Cure

a) Because you can’t be sure of prevention, what you can do is lessen the effects and avoid passing it on.

OK now that we know what we are dealing with we can further discuss the illness and its prevention and treatment. The best thing one can still do is get fully immunized every year even acknowledging that it is not a perfect vaccine; all other factors are beyond our control. There are some fairly effective medicines that can treat the Flu symptoms if used early in the disease or if one is in close contact with someone who has an active case. These are also not completely effective although they can slow the length of illness. Fortunately the side effects are mainly minimal and short –lived. As with all medications there are rare significant side effects that should be reported to your Doctor such as severe headaches and vomiting (headache and vomiting can also be prominent symptoms of Flu virus infection- confusing again! ) and certain psychological symptoms such as vivid dreams and even hallucinations.

Most of the deaths that occur with Flu virus infection are found in very young children or infants, those children or infants with asthma, children with certain chronic diseases of the lungs, kidneys or heart, those individuals with immune dysfunction, and elderly people. Still, suffering through the Flu illness is no piece of cake for previously healthy individuals and can cost a week or more out of school or work.

Aside from thorough immunization every year and avoidance of those with the illness the next most effective way to reduce spread and subsequent infection is to wash hands frequently during the the Flu season with soap and water or the many anti-bacterial and antiviral solutions found in abundance in hospitals and other health care facilities and easily purchased by anyone.

b) The earlier you find it, the better the chances for EVERYONE in your family – so pay attention during flu season; even if it’s not a “traditional flu symptom” – when in doubt, ask your doctor.

Early identification of Flu –like symptoms (sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, eye pain, etc.) should be brought the attention of your Doctor as early treatment (mentioned previously) can lead to less severe symptoms and a shorter duration of illness. Remember preventing Influenza infection in one family member can help prevent the infection in all family members!

It has been mentioned that hives can be a sign of Flu even without other symptoms being present, and, as with many other viral infections, this may be possible, it is the symptoms of Flu that are debilitating and therefore worth avoiding employing all the methods mentioned above. The only significance is that if, and that is rare, hives do represent the only symptoms of Flu infection, a more preventive plan can be instituted in the family. That is why hand washing, avoidance of contact and proper immunizations should be practiced by everyone during the appropriate season of the year.

Beyond Flu What Illness Should You Watch Your Child For

Children’s colds

It’s normal for a child to have 8 or more colds a year.

This is because there are hundreds of different cold viruses and young children have no immunity to any of them as they’ve never had them before.

They gradually build up immunity and get fewer colds. Most colds get better in 5 to 7 days.

Here are some suggestions on how to ease the symptoms in your child:

  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
  • Saline nose drops can help loosen dried snot and relieve a stuffy nose. Ask your pharmacist, GP (*physician) or health visitor about them.
  • If your child has a fever, pain or discomfort, children’s paracetamol (*acetaminophen) or ibuprofen can help. Children with asthma may not be able to take ibuprofen, so check with your pharmacist, GP or health visitor first. Always follow the instructions on the packet.
  • Encourage the whole family to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading.

Cough and cold remedies for children

Children under 6 shouldn’t have over-the-counter cough and cold remedies, including decongestants (medicines to clear a blocked nose), unless advised by a GP or pharmacist.

Children’s sore throats

Sore throats are often caused by viral illnesses such as colds or flu.

Your child’s throat may be dry and sore for a day or two before a cold starts. You can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce the pain.

Most sore throats clear up on their own after a few days. If your child has a sore throat for more than 4 days, a high temperature and is generally unwell or unable to swallow fluids or saliva, see your GP.

Children’s coughs

  • Children often cough when they have a cold because of mucus trickling down the back of the throat.
  • If your child is feeding, drinking, eating and breathing normally and there’s no wheezing, a cough isn’t usually anything to worry about.
  • If your child has a bad cough that won’t go away, see your GP. If your child also has a high temperature and is breathless, they may have a chest infection.
  • If this is caused by bacteria rather than a virus, your GP will prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. Antibiotics won’t soothe or stop the cough straight away.
  • If a cough continues for a long time, especially if it’s worse at night or is brought on by your child running about, it could be a sign of asthma.
  • Some children with asthma also have a wheeze or breathlessness. If your child has any of these symptoms, take them to the GP.
  • If your child seems to be having trouble breathing, contact your GP, even if it’s the middle of the night.
  • Although it’s upsetting to hear your child cough, coughing helps clear away phlegm from the chest or mucus from the back of the throat.
  • If your child is over the age of 1, try a warm drink of lemon and honey.

Find out more about coughs.

Croup

A child with croup has a distinctive barking cough and will make a harsh sound, known as stridor, when they breathe in. They may also have a runny nose, sore throat and high temperature.

Croup can usually be diagnosed by a GP and treated at home. But if your child’s symptoms are severe and they’re finding it difficult to breathe, take them to the nearest hospital’s accident and emergency (A&E) department (*ER).

Read more about the symptoms of croup.

Children’s ear infections

Ear infections are common in babies and small children. They often follow a cold and sometimes cause a high temperature. A baby or toddler may pull or rub at an ear.

Other possible symptoms include fever, irritability, crying, difficulty feeding, restlessness at night and a cough.

If your child has earache, with or without fever, you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen at the recommended dose. Try one first and, if it doesn’t work, you can try giving the other one.

Don’t put any oil, eardrops or cotton buds into your child’s ear unless your GP (*physician) advises you to do so.

Most ear infections are caused by viruses, which can’t be treated with antibiotics. They’ll just get better by themselves, usually within about 3 days.

After an ear infection, your child may have a problem hearing for 2 to 6 weeks. If the problem lasts for any longer than this, ask your GP for advice.

Find out more about ear infection (otitis media).

Glue ear in children

Repeated middle ear infections (otitis media) may lead to glue ear (otitis media with effusion), where sticky fluid builds up and can affect your child’s hearing. This may lead to unclear speech or behavioural problems.

If you smoke, your child is more likely to develop glue ear and will get better more slowly. Your GP can give you advice on treating glue ear.

See glue ear for further information.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk





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