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Cold & Flu Season Tips for Kids

by Rachel Hozey
  • Overview

    Most people realize that colds and the flu, even bird and swine flu, are caused by viruses and can't be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes the flu vaccine is effective against seasonal flu. Most of the time, however, practicing preventative measures and treating the symptoms can help children recover more quickly.
  • Prevention

    Regular doses of vitamin C boost the immune system, making it harder for cold and flu viruses to take hold in a child's body. Because vitamin C exits the body almost as fast as it enters, it's best to take small doses twice a day. Citrus fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C; watermelon, berries, kiwi and mango, fruits children usually enjoy, are also good sources. Green vegetables are, too. Broccoli, notoriously disliked by children, is an excellent source of vitamin C. One kid-friendly way to prepare broccoli is to steam the florets and then sauté them in a little melted butter in a hot skillet. When browned in spots, sprinkle with fresh thyme and lemon juice and serve. Of course, regular hand-washing with soap and warm water and sneezing into a tissue or the crook of the arm, not bare hands, can help contain the spread of cold and flu viruses. Many people find the yearly flu vaccine effective at preventing the flu; check with your doctor.
  • Treating the Symptoms

    Though it's true that viral colds and flu will "run their course," it's important to treat the symptoms because if left unchecked, they can cause complications. For example, mucous may plug sinus passages or the tube between the nose and ear, the Eustachian tube, resulting in sinus or ear infections. Chest congestion can lead to bacterial pneumonia . The most common cold and flu symptoms are muscle aches, fever, runny nose, congestion, coughing and sore throat. These symptoms can be treated with many over-the-counter medicines and with natural remedies, too. For muscle ache and fever, give recommended doses of acetaminophen. Because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a degenerative liver disease, never give aspirin to children or teenagers, For a runny nose or congestion, herbal tea with a pinch of cayenne (the capsaicin in cayenne helps loosen mucous) can be soothing. Children may enjoy a homemade citrus drink: Squeeze the juices of a lemon, an orange and a grapefruit plus 1 tablespoon honey into a small pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the honey is dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Coughing associated with congestion should not be entirely stifled because coughing can help loosen mucous. Other ways to loosen and thin mucous are to run a cool mist humidifier in the child's bedroom and to encourage him to drink plenty of fluids. Even frozen fruit-juice pops qualify as fluids. Give a little more thought to treating a sore throat. Sometimes a sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, i.e. "strep throat," and so it's wise to consult a doctor. For viral sore throats, offer cold liquids to soothe the pain or warm tea with honey. Older children can get relief by gargling with a saline rinse or a weak hydrogen-peroxide solution.

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