First of all, I would like to say that I always dread the ‘cold’ season.
Here in Papua New Guinea, we only have two seasons – wet and dry – but our nights and early mornings do tend to get very cold when our neighouring country, Australia, is going through its winter season…usually from June to August.
I hate being holed up in the house nursing a sore throat and stuffy head while everyone is outside in the sunshine.
It gets more dreadful when one of my little bosses catch it. They get weak, can’t eat well and find it difficult to sleep at night because of their blocked noses, fever and aches and pains.
I know this is the one thing that gets on the nerves of all mothers and we need every help we can get to combat this illness when it latches its slimy grip on our children.
I have listed below some helpful tips on how to help your young ones get through the battle with this dreaded germ.
But before we get to those helpful tips, let us take a look at our common enemy…
What is the common cold?
Basically, they tell you that ‘the common cold is a contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract like the nose, throat and sinuses’. You will also find out that the culprit is a virus called rhinovirus.
Now this unwanted guest usually shows itself at your doorstep when the cold weather sets in…the cold weather may make the inside lining of your nose drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.
This sneaky virus can get into the protective lining of the nose and throat, setting off an immune system reaction that can cause a sore throat, headache and trouble breathing through the nose.
How does it spread?
According to this Wikipedia article on Rhinovirus , there are two ways in which the common cold can spread via the rhinovirus:
One way is via aerosols of respiratory droplets or invisible droplets in the air and,
The other way is from touching contaminated surfaces, including direct person-to-person contact.
Children may have 6 to 12 colds a year with the higher incidents of colds season being during the winter or cold seasons.
Reasons given for the high number of common colds experienced in that season being that people spend more time indoor during the cold thereby increasing transmission of the virus, and start of the school year where a lot of children can catch it from a class mate and pass it on via the things they touch.
The rhinovirus affects mainly infants, elderly and immunocompromised (immune deficiency) people.
What are the signs and symptoms of the common cold?
Here is a list of symptoms that come about when you have the common cold.
- Tickle in the throat,
- A runny or stuffy nose and sneezing.
- Kids with colds might also feel tired (sleepy)
- Sore throat,
- mild fever,
- muscle aches and
- Loss of appetite.
- Mucus from the nose may become thick yellow or green.
Cold symptoms usually appear 2 or 3 days after exposure to a source of infection. Most colds clear up within 1 week but some may last a bit longer.
Before we progress to our list of helpful tips to help your little ones feel comfortable during a cold, you must remember that the common cold is a viral infection so antibiotics won’t help.
I hope that these tips can help you make your little ones feel better while their immune system battles the cold.
Use caution when giving cough and cold products to children
The U.S Food and Drug Administration recommends against giving over the counter cold and cough medications to children under the age of 4.
You really need to seek advice from their pediatrician to determine if you need to give medication to your infant or toddler who is suffering from a fever or symptoms of a cold.
Children under the age of 2 should not be given any kind of cough and cold product that contains a decongestant or antihistamine due to the possibility of serious and possibly life-threatening side effects like convulsions and rapid heart rates.
Coughing is normal during a cold and can usually serve a purpose. In this FDA article , FDA pediatrician Amy M. Taylor, M.D., M.H.S. says that,
“Coughs help the body clear mucus out of the airway and protect the lungs; so you don’t want to suppress all coughs”.
According to a source study by the American Academy of Pediatricians , warm, clear fluids like warm water or apple juice can be given to children 3 months to 1 year of age to soothe coughing. Give 5 to 15 mL – 4 times a day – when your child is coughing.
For children 1 year and older honey can be given. Give 2 to 5 mL as needed. The honey thins the mucus and loosens the cough. Mix it in their warm drink if they do not like to take it on its own.
However, if your child’s coughing lasts for more than 3 weeks you should call their pediatrician.
Fever in an infant below 3 months warrants calling your doctor for an immediate check. If your child has burning fever that is at 102 degrees (39 degrees Celsius) and above, you need to take them to see the doctor or pediatrician immediately.
If you don’t have a thermometer at home to measure your child’s temperature, just watch him or her carefully.
Take them to the doctor if they have a really burning fever, they’re uncomfortable and crying, refuse to eat and drink or cannot eat and drink.
If it is just a slight fever, you can give your child a nice warm bath at home as long as they are taking liquids and seem comfortable.
If medication is recommended to help relieve fever in your little one, most times you will be given medication that contains acetaminophen, and sometimes ibuprofen may be prescribed for your child depending on their age.
Do not keep two bottles that contain either acetaminophen or ibuprofen in your home. You may be tempted to substitute between the two which can lead to accidental overdose.
It is very important to note that medication containing aspirin must never be given to your child, even if he or she is in her teens, it is known to induce a rare disorder called Reye’s syndrome that can severely affect the liver and brain.
When giving your child or infant their dose of medication it is highly recommended that you use the dosing instrument that is included in the packaging.
If in doubt ask your doctor or pharmacist.
The dosing instruments usually include a syringe or a cup marked with the correct measurements.
DO NO use household spoons to measure medication.
The dosing instruments are marked with measurements based on the Drugs Facts label.
Lots of liquids and rest
Give your child lots of fluids to keep him or her hydrated. Fevers that come with the cold can make your child feel sicklier and down in energy. The fever can make them reject any kind of fluid intake but it is important that you encourage them to drink something to keep their strength up and help their immune system fight.
The types of liquids your older children may take apart from water are; fruit juice (except citrus fruity juice like orange juice), popsicles, soup and even warm decaffeinated tea with a teaspoon of honey if your child is over 1 year old. These liquids are great and refreshing enough to help restore your child’s liquid levels and gain some stamina to hopefully try a little food later on when he or she is feeling bit better.
Otherwise if your child is dehydrated it would be advisable to give him or her oral rehydration solution (ORS) like Pedialyte.
Please see your pediatrician if you see these signs in your child or infant:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Few or no tears when crying
- Sunken eyes
- Check the soft spot on the top of your baby’s head called the fontanelle. If it is sunken then you need to seek advice from your doctor
- Peeing less or fewer wet diapers than normal
- Drowsiness or dizziness
- Weak and always sleepy or listless
- Fussy or cries more than usual
- Darker urine in older children and even infant.
Infants who are still breastfeeding can be encouraged to breastfeed if they are not interested to eat. They may become more inclined to breastfeeding during their battle with the cold. This is good. Continue to breastfeed them and if possible encourage them to eat if they are old enough to eat.
Good old rest is enough to reboot the body and give space to your child’s immune system to work without interruption in fighting against the viral infection in your child’s body.
Let your child sleep during the day as needed waking them up for lunch, tea and dinner time to replenish their energy with food.
Clear blocked nose and airway
Saline nasal solution & bulb syringe
Easily clear up a blocked nose using a saline nasal drop or spray, bulb syringe and – in older children – blowing the nose. The saline solution thins the mucus making it easy for it to be removed.
Runny nose is one of the symptoms caused by the cold virus and can be easily sucked out with a bulb syringe for infants and for older children they can blow their nose.
A blocked nose, however, is almost, always the annoying outcome from the runny nose. It causes disturbances in sleep and sometimes during eating and drinking.
Use a saline nasal drop or spray to clear up a blocked nose by placing a few drops into the nostrils for the drops or by spraying into the nose area with the saline spray. It is fast and effective and can thin the mucus making it easy for the child to blow it out on soft tissue, while smaller children and infants can be assisted with the bulb syringe.
The saline solution nasal drops and sprays can be purchased without prescription from your local pharmacy.
If you can’t find one at your pharmacy you can easily make your own with ½ teaspoon salt and 8 ounces of tap water.
For infants, use the drops before breastfeeding and bedtime to ensure smooth feeding and a goodnights rest for the little one and yourself.
Older children can use the drops every time they have a blocked nose.
As we have discovered in the beginning, dry air is the top ingredient in making your child’s throat vulnerable to the viral infection.
Drinking water and other liquids may seem enough to get through the night, but then constant trips to the toilet will leave your child tired and irritable in the morning.
It’s really sad, and also frustrating, when you’re trying to put your child to bed or make your baby go to sleep but a blocked nose is making it difficult.
Apart from bulb syringes and nasal solutions you can use steam treatment to give relief to your child from blocked nose and get him or her comfortable before bedtime.
If you can afford one, get a cool mist humidifier and turn it on at night to increase air moisture to help clear your child’s nose. Just make sure to clean it out daily to prevent molding and bacteria build up.
For parents who don’t have a cool mist humidifier, you can simply run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom. Sit a while with your child or infant on a chair in the bathroom to help clear the stuffiness in their nose and airways.
Later dress your child warm with socks on the feet and mittens for little babies and rock them to sleep.
If they still find it difficult to sleep try give them some warm liquid to drink – for older children – and for the babies place a few drops of saline drops in the nose before breast or bottle feeding.
Make sure their room is clean from dust, dirty clothes and rubbish. The windows must be open (with bug screens on the windows) and clear to give your child room to breathe.
If the room is cramped and small, try making them sleep in a bigger room or the living room. Just before they rock off to sleep take them back to their beds.
Some may say that this method will spoil the child or a certain sleeping routine the child is already used to, but this is just to help the child feel comfortable and go to sleep while they’re suffering from cough and cold.
For my children, I wasn’t able to afford a bulb syringe when they were infants so I had to use a simple method shown to me by my father. He used to use this method on my small sisters and me when we were babies and couldn’t sleep because of the blocked nose.
You have to be gentle when you use this method to remove mucus from your baby’s nose as your baby is still small and fragile.
To do this method, you may have to be in the bathroom at the sink or basin. I usually stand at the kitchen sink when I do this for my babies because I like them to feel comfortable in the wide, open space. It gives them the feeling that they can breathe better in their condition.
Firstly, place the baby in the crook of your left arm, then with your right hand gently hold the baby’s face – by the chin – to steady him or her and help the baby relax as this method may make him or her upset if it is the first time.
Secondly, gently place your mouth on the baby’s nose, starting first on the right nostril, and suck in one quick burst (probably like when you eat noodle?). Spit out the mucus and rinse your mouth carefully before repeating the action on your baby’s left nostril.
Lastly, comfort your child and hug him or her before giving breast or bottle milk to calm him or her down before bedtime.
I have used this method on all three of my children and it has worked every time, they slept like little bosses till morning.
It may seem strange and weird to you but it is a great help especially for mothers like us in Papua New Guinea where we have to rely on home methods to care for our children.
Two years ago, I took my two big kids to the general hospital here to see a pediatrician. We were sitting in line to see the doctor and the lady beside me was holding a very upset little baby.
The poor infant was crying continuously in that heart-wrenching wail new born babies do I had to ask the mother what was wrong with her baby.
This is her response:
“Sister, my baby is coughing and his nose is blocked…he’s upset because he can’t feed”
I felt for this young mother and her baby. I looked down at the screaming infant and noticed his nose was running.
After advising her to put her baby on her shoulder, instead of laying him in the horizontal position he was in, I told her to go to the bathroom and suck the mucus out of his nose.
She looked at me in surprise…and maybe shock at what I had just suggested. I understood it was something new to her because this was her first baby.
After thinking for perhaps five to ten minutes, she carried her baby out to the bathroom. Ten minutes later she walked back into the waiting room smiling.
The little guy was now latched onto her right breast with his little head cradled in her right arm. He was falling off to sleep.
The both of them still saw the doctor because he also had a fever. The doctor advised the young mother to bathe him in warm water, dress him in warm clothing and that she must eat healthy to provide good breast milk for her son.
Otherwise, they both went home that night with something to control his fever if he has it later and the mother learnt a new method she could use to help her son get some comfort from a stuffy nose.
Prevention is better than cure.
How many times have we heard these words being spoken, especially to us parents?
“Prevention is better than cure”
It’s not like we don’t do our jobs as parents but we can’t help it that our children no matter how hard headed they can be at times, they still catch a bug and get very sick.
The cold virus is so easy to catch we just have to be extra careful now that we have a fair idea the type of weather or season it favours.
It is imperative that all infants must complete their immunization and keep them clear of anyone who has a cold.
And please do not let just anybody kiss your infant on the face. Not on the cheek, not even on the eyebrow or forehead, and definitely not on the lips.
To make it easier to read, I have put the list of things you should help your child remember so they can avoid catching a cold.
- Stay clear of anyone who has a cold
- Stay clear of people smoking. Even passive smoking can lower resistance to infection by the rhinovirus.
- Wash their hands well and often. Make sure they wash their hands especially after blowing their nose. Try not to touch any surface at all where there are lots of people.
- Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow instead of into their hands.
- Do not share plates, utensils and cups
- Do not pick up other people’s used tissue. Parents do not send your child to throw your used tissue for you.
In order to provide the best care for your child during this stressful time, you are able to contact your doctor for further advice.
These tips are just some of the things I learnt along the way and from online research put together here for your convenience.
For now it is all about making sure our little tots feel comfortable during their battle with the cough and cold and help them on their road to recovery.
Just make sure they take in enough liquids to prevent dehydration and some nutritious food or soup, when they’re ready to eat, to give them the strength to fight.
Keep a clear mind, take in your required intake of water as well and eat well. Rest when your little ones take a nap, and let the cold run its course.