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10 Cold & Flu Kid-soothing Secrets

The average kid suffers through eight colds a year, which means that all parents become well versed in nursing a miserable, sniffling child back to health. That’s why we turned to the experts — real moms and dads like you — for their go-to moves for easing symptoms, entertaining bored kids and staying sane during sick season. The next time your little one is under the weather, try using a few of these tips and tricks:

  1. Find restful activities.
    “To keep my 21-month-old son entertained when he’s under the weather, I focus on activities he can do while seated, like puzzles, coloring books and stickers. We also work on little skills, like “pull off your sock’ or “try to get your slipper on by yourself.’ It sounds small, but it keeps him resting while he’s occupied. I also let him watch TV and play with my iPhone or iPad: Since he’s usually not allowed to do those things, it’s a big treat.” — Brooke Lea Foster, parenting blogger (MommyMoi)
  2. Serve up cold-fighting foods.
    “I feed my kids meals that help boost their immune system and speed the healing process: foods rich in vitamin A (carrots and broccoli), vitamin C (pineapple, strawberries and OJ) and zinc (whole-grain cereal, lean meat and beans). Getting enough fluids is also crucial, so I encourage them to drink water and sip soup. My mom makes the best chicken soup, and she always drops off a batch when someone is sidelined with a cold.” — Elisa Zied, registered dietician with a master’s degree, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips and Feed Your Family Right!, founder/president of Zied Health Communications
  3. Scrub right way.
    “To prevent the spread of germs throughout the house and to yourself, instruct your kids to wash their hands regularly. Studies show that kids typically only run the water for five seconds and leave with their hands dripping wet, which isn’t effective. Teach them to sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ or say their ABCs as the scrub up, and dry their hands thoroughly on a clean towel afterwards.
    Also make sure that you do the same — only 30 percent of adults hit the sink after coughing or sneezing! If you sometimes forget, consider leaving a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer right outside of your sick child’s room.” — Harley Rotbart, M.D., professor and vice chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Denver, author of Germ Proof Your Kids, father of three
  4. Ask for a hand.
    “To keep my own sanity when the kids are sick, I call in the reserves! My mother-in-law lives locally, so she’s a big help and a fun person to visit when the kids can’t play with their buddies. I might plan an outing for the evening — maybe a movie with girlfriends — so I have something to look forward to after being cooped up in the house all day.I also ask my husband for assistance. We recently had to give our 2-year-old daughter eye drops, and it was a team effort. My husband held and distracted her, while I applied the medicine and repeated the word “gentle” to calm her down. When we finished, we clapped, sang and danced, and all was forgotten in no time.” — Elizabeth Detmer, mom of two
  5. Provide comfort.
    “During a cold, the main goal is to keep your child comfortable — dressing in light layers and turning down the thermostat if necessary. Sometimes I’ll run a cooling bath to provide some relief and, if necessary, offer ibuprofen or acetaminophen for a fever.” — Dr. Hannah Chow, pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
  6. Break out special treats.
    When my two kids are sick, I bring out a goody bag that I keep for rainy days or when they’ve been especially good. It’s usually just filled with stuff that I’ve picked up at sales, like activity packs, puzzles, small toys and other seasonal crafts.
    In the evenings, I’ll warm up apple cider, ginger tea with honey and lemon or vanilla soymilk, which is soothing. I try to cater to my kids when they’re under the weather, because being sick is no fun.” — Joanne Kim, mom of two
  7. Fluff an extra pillow.
    “My 4-year-old has an abundance of energy, so I know he’s sick when he actually slows down. To clear up his stuffy nose, I use a saline spray and prop an extra pillow under his head to help him breathe easier while he’s sleeping.
    I’ve also taught him how to sneeze into the crook of his elbow so that he doesn’t spread germs. It’s hard to take care of a little one when you’re sick too!” — Holly Tillotson, mom of one
  8. Freeze popsicles.
    “Cold popsicles help soothe sore throats. Try making your own from drinks that also provide a dose of vitamin C, like orange juice and fresh berry smoothies.” — Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian who holds a master’s in public health, clinical pediatric dietitian in the community education department of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association
  9. Play it on repeat.
    “Although it can drive me crazy, I let my kids watch their favorite movies as many times as they want. My 3-year-old daughter just had a stomach bug and watched Tangled three times over two days. I knew she was feeling better when she got up to sing and even dance a little during the song “Mother Knows Best.” — Betsy Stephens, blogger (Working for Cookies)
  10. Bend the rules.
    “My biggest advice for our own sanity as moms is to drop the demands. Let me explain: As parents, we ask our kids to do things, from the simple ‘drink your milk’ to the complex ‘clean your room.’ Then we have to follow through and make sure they listen to us. When kids are sick, they’re less able to do as we say, because they’re cranky and miserable. Any little thing can trigger a meltdown. So it makes sense to table regular requests (pick up your toys), but follow through on anything that you do ask (put the tissue in the trash can). This approach will make it easier for children to transition back to meeting your behavior expectations when they’re feeling better.” — Carin Daddino, former special education teacher and mom of two

5 Healing Scents For Your Family, You May Not Know About

The secret to better sleep, more energy and fewer cold symptoms may be right beneath your nose: A growing body of research shows that certain aromas can improve your well-being. “Scents trigger a reaction in the nervous system,” explains Dr. Julie Chen, an integrative physician and owner of Making Healthy EZ in San Jose, Calif. “And that can have an effect on the entire body.”

To find out which ones have the greatest healing powers, we sifted through the studies and consulted the experts. Get a whiff of these mind and body benefits!

1. Lavender for better sleep. Tired of counting sheep? Try sniffing this fragrant purple flower. Researchers at Wesleyan University found that people who breathed in lavender essential oil before bedtime slept more soundly — and spent more time in restorative slow-wave sleep — than when they whiffed a placebo.

“This aroma can help both adults and children relax,” adds Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. In one study, she and her colleagues found that babies cried less and snoozed more when lavender-scented bath oil was added to their nighttime bath.

2. Peppermint for more energy. Put down that double espresso and unwrap a red-and-white striped candy: The cool smell stimulates the area of the brain associated with alertness and attention, say researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. In a series of studies, the scientists found that people who breathed in peppermint were faster and more accurate during clerical tests. They were also more aware and less frustrated while driving.

3. Eucalyptus for cold symptoms. “Eucalyptus helps clear nasal passageways,” says Chen. Developing research suggests that it may help break up mucus, also loosening coughs, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What’s more, a study published in the journal Respiratory Medicine shows that eucalyptol, the active ingredient, has anti-inflammatory properties and may ease inflamed airways. “Whiffing eucalyptus won’t get rid of a cold,” says Chen. “But it may lessen those symptoms and suffering.”

4. Jasmine for a happier mood. The next time you’re feeling stressed out, harness the power of this little white flower. German research found that the sweet smell increased levels of GABA, a mood-boosting chemical, in the brain. Jasmine has also been shown by Thai researchers to increase alertness and alleviate depression.

5. Green apple for pain relief. The aroma of an apple a day may keep headaches away. In a study done at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, migraine sufferers who whiffed green apple experienced less pain over a shorter period of time than when they breathed in an unscented placebo. It could be that the smell distracted them from the pain, say the researchers, or it could be that it reduces the muscle contractions that intensify migraines.

The Right Way to Whiff

“If done properly, aromatherapy is generally safe, with few side effects,” says Chen. “That’s why it works well as an adjunctive therapy, or in addition to conventional treatments and medications.”

Chen advises looking for scents with few additives. “I like essential oils,” she says. But don’t take a deep breath directly from the bottle or rub the liquid onto your skin, which can lead to irritation. “Wave the cap beneath your nose or use an aromatherapy diffuser,” she says. Want to inhale a scent, like lavender, while you sleep? Put a few drops of the oil on a tissue or handkerchief and stash it beneath your pillow.

Some scents are also available in topical products — like eucalyptus, an ingredient in vapor rubs — formulated for safe use on skin. (Check the packaging for age restrictions and instructions for application.)

And remember, it is possible to be sensitive to certain smells and products, says Chen. So if you or your child starts to experience any unpleasant symptoms, like headaches or irritation, stop whiffing.

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Editor’s Note: As always, please check with your child’s pediatrician before trying anything new. Allergies and sensitivities are unpredictable – especially where children are concerned.

What Foods Will Keep Your Family Healthy All Winter??

Chicken soup for the common coldThis winter, a whopping 20 percent of Americans will come down with a bad case of the flu. But you don’t have to be one of them…and neither does anyone else in your family! Research shows that, in addition to getting your flu shot, eating certain foods can help you avoid the flu — as well as colds and illness in general. Here’s what to add to your grocery cart.

Yogurt

Probiotics, the healthy bacteria in yogurt, literally crowds out invading bad bacteria that’s trying to get into your system. That’s why, in one study, people who consumed a yogurt drink that contained Lactobacillus reuteri over an 80-day period took 33 percent fewer sick days. To make sure you’re getting a good dose of probiotics, look for the words “live bacteria” and “active cultures” on the label. Bonus: Yogurt is rich in calcium, which is essential for strong, healthy teeth, and most kids love it!

Garlic

This favorite flavor-booster contains allicin, a compound that fights off bacteria. According to a large British study, people who downed a daily garlic capsule for three winter months were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. If they did get sick, they suffered for about four fewer days. Adding cooked garlic to your food might be even more effective.

Tea

According to a Harvard study, drinking black or green tea can rev up your immune system’s T cells so they destroy bacteria more quickly. And the antioxidants in green tea are great for your teeth. A large Japanese study found that every cup reduces gum inflammation.

Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in this flavorful fish, help cells remove toxins and take in nutrients more efficiently. And a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consumed the most omega-3s decreased their risk of gum disease by 22 percent.

Chicken Soup

Don’t wait until someone in your family is sick to serve up some soup. Cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking, helps calm the usual over-the-top response your immune system has to cold germs that causes many of the worst symptoms from a stuffed-up nose to a wracking cough. And it doesn’t have to be homemade. A University of Nebraska study published in Chest found that most supermarket brands prevented and alleviated cold symptoms just as effectively. On a cold winter day, think hot bowl of soup.

Kid-friendly Foods That Soothe

When children are under the weather, they usually turn to Mom for comfort. This season, be prepared with tasty treats that do double duty – they soothe symptoms and help speed up the healing process.

“Runny noses, coughs and intermittent fevers can all be soothed at home,” says Dr. Ben Lee, a hospitalist at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern, in Dallas. “The old adage of a bowl of chicken noodle soup does have some truth, as it provides necessary fluids and calories to help kids feel better.”

There are other options too. Here are a few unexpected, inexpensive and tasty treats to have on hand for your kids this cold and flu season.

Oatmeal Cookies

Every mom knows that extra sleep is key for sick children, but getting an unhappy child to climb into bed is seldom an easy task. Oats contain high levels of tryptophan, the amino acid best known for making you feel sleepy after eating a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. A bowl of oats may be a bit heavy on the stomach, especially for a sick kid, but eating one or two oatmeal cookies will produce the same effect and help kids settle down and get the rest they need to feel better.

100 Percent Juice Drinks

It’s normal for most kids to become mildly dehydrated while sick with the flu. Watch for signs, which include a dry or sticky mouth, dry skin, irritability and dizziness. “Liquids are important to prevent dehydration,” says Lee.

The right liquids make all the difference, though. Avoid caffeinated beverages and hydrate kids with 100 percent juice. All-natural juice drinks are fat-free and nutrient-dense, and are loaded with vitamins and immunity-boosting antioxidants that many of their sugary counterparts lack. If the juice is too sweet or strong, mix it with an equal amount of water to dilute the taste without washing away the nutrients. Kids younger than 1 year should hydrate with a beverage that contains electrolytes.

Ginger Ale or Ginger Candies

Many studies have shown that ginger curbs nausea and alleviates an upset stomach. The trick is to find foods and beverages that actually contain pure ginger. Look for the words “ginger” or “ginger extract” on the ingredient list. Some sodas, especially those available in natural food stores, are going to be your best bet. Ginger candies made from real ginger can also help provide relief for older children.

Ice Pops

A cool ice pop can numb irritated nerve endings to help soothe an inflamed sore throat and provide fluids to quell dehydration. Seek out ice pops made from 100 percent juice or fruit puree, and avoid unnecessary artificial sweeteners and additives. Ice pops made from 100 percent juice are loaded with healthy antioxidants, and those fortified with extra vitamins and minerals can give added boost to the immune system to help speed recovery time.

Honey

Honey is extremely effective at soothing coughs, according to research from Penn State College of Medicine. In fact, a small dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime reduced the severity and frequency of coughs and provided significant relief to participants in a recent study.

“Honey has been reported to reduce coughing by coating the throat to help reduce irritation,” says Lee. One to two teaspoons thirty minutes prior to bedtime should do the trick, he says. An important warning: Children under 2 years old should avoid this sweet soother to prevent the risk of a botulism infection.

Your Child Has Summer Sniffles …Is It a Cold or Allergy?

child sneezing during the summerSummer time is the time for fun and family enjoyment. The early and late parts of summer are, however, noticeable for stirring up allergic symptoms due to grass and trees in May and June and such plants as ragweed during August and September. Symptoms such as burning, itching eyes and runny, itchy nose with or without cough are typical symptoms of environmental allergies. There is no fever as this is not an infection. Symptoms of a summer cold however can mimic those of allergy, but usually itching is not a major part.

A cold, or upper respiratory infection, is, as the name implies an infection by viral agents that usually invade through mucus membranes (inside of nose, mouth or eyes), set up shop and multiply to some extent. The multiplication is usually self-limited as the body’s natural defense systems go to work. When the defenses are working, there may be fever, achiness, headache and a variety of other minor symptoms. Allergic symptoms do not usually include the systemic symptoms mentioned above.

Unfortunately sometimes, cold and allergy symptoms occur simultaneously, causing some confusion among parents, patients and Doctors in terms of diagnosis. Sometimes, also, it is impossible to tell them apart even to the most trained eye.

The bottom line is even though there may be no telling them apart, there is no cure for the common cold, and the combined symptoms can be treated similarly.

If a child has known environmental allergy, he/she may be treated with an antihistamine such as Benadryl for short term (4 – 6 hrs) or Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra for long term (once or twice every 24hrs) for the symptoms; no response may indicate a cold and not allergy, while the concurrent symptoms of fever, achiness, headache and others may strengthen the diagnosis of a cold.

Certainly it is worthwhile to use a humidifier in his or her room to moisten irritated mucous membranes, drink plenty of fluids, and use Tylenol or Advil in the appropriate dosages for poorly tolerated symptoms. Important to note that controlling fever with the use of these medications is not necessary unless your child is very uncomfortable. Using these medications will not get rid of the fever in the long run, but it will make him or her feel more comfortable in the short term. The fever, remember, is there because the body is fighting off the infection and therefore is a relatively good sign in a healthy child. The fever will persist until the cleansing process is finished.

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.

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