Article at a Glance

  • Flu shots and hand washing are two of the best ways to protect your family against viral illnesses.
  • Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not on viral infections like the cold or flu.
  • If you need help determining how sick your child is, use our “Is Your Child Sick?” tool. It also includes great tips on home treatment.

Wondering how you are going to survive this cold and flu season? We are here to help! We have complied this ultimate survival guide with tips on the best way to prevent and treat colds and flu. And if you have any questions, we are just a phone call a way!

The best way to survive the cold or flu is to not get it. Here are some tips on outsmarting those pesky germs.

  • Make sure everybody in your family gets a flu shot.
  • Teach your family to wash their hands with soap and water. You should lather up and rinse off for at least 15 seconds. Making it fun helps motivate the little ones. For example, tell your kids that the germs are the enemy and that they can fight them off by attacking them with their secret weapon—soap! This makes for some very vigorous and effective lathering up!
  • Teach your children to cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. In a pinch, they can also use the inside of their elbow.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If somebody in your family gets sick, try to keep the other family members separated as much as possible.
  • Teach children to try not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If your child is at a childcare facility during the day, find out their policies on hygiene and what they do to prevent contagious diseases from spreading.

Cold or Flu?
When children feel lousy, they probably don’t care if it is the cold or flu, but parents often do. If they have the flu, it doesn’t hurt to be a little more watchful. The following questions can help you determine which one it is.

  • Did your child’s illness come on (a) suddenly, or (b) slowly?
  • Does your child have (a) a high fever, or (b) no (or mild) fever?
  • Is your child (a) severely exhausted, or (b) mildly exhausted?
  • Does your child have (a) a headache, or (b) no headache?
  • Is your child’s appetite (a) less than normal, or (b) normal?
  • Are your child’s muscles (a) achy, or (b) fine?
  • Does your child have (a) chills, or (b) no chills?

If you answered “a” on most of the questions, your child probably has the flu. If you answered “b”, it’s most likely a cold. However, it is important to remember that flu symptoms can vary from person to person.

Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viral infections. Only time and your body’s natural defenses can cure things like colds, flu, most coughs and bronchitis, sore throats not caused by strep, and runny noses. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus and/or when you don’t need them poses one of the world’s most significant public health risks. Overuse of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance; this is when antibiotics no longer work on disease-causing organisms.

Sometimes bacterial infections may follow a viral infection. Signs to look for include:

  • Symptoms that last longer than 10 to 14 days
  • A fever above 102° F
  • A fever that gets worse after a few days instead of improving

Although you can’t cure the cold or flu, there are some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable or even shorten the duration of the viral infection.

  • Rest: The body needs all of its energy to fight off the virus, so make sure your child stays well rested.
  • Herbal Teas: A simple warm tea made with honey and lemon can help soothe a sore throat and calm a cough. You can also use herbal teas with slippery elm or cherry bark.
  • Mints: Sucking on a mint can help calm your child’s cough. But be careful about giving mints to small children or to children at bedtime as they can be choking hazards.
  • Extra Pillows: Tucking extra pillows under your child’s head at night can help ease nasal congestion and coughing. If your child moves around a lot at night and won’t stay on the pillows, elevate the head of their bed a little by sticking a couple of books under the bed’s legs.
  • Humidifier: Placing a warm mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom at night can help ease a sore throat, loosen up nasal congestion, and prevent coughing. If you don’t have a humidifier, leaning over a bowl of steaming water or standing in steamy bathroom can also help.
  • Warm Bath: A warm bath with chamomile or lavender fragrances can help calm your child and soothe dry nasal passages.
  • Layer Clothing: Children with fevers have a tendency to alternate between feeling too hot and too cold. Dressing children in layers helps them add or shed layers as needed.
  • Damp Towel: Placing a cool, damp towel on your child’s head can help ease headaches by shrinking dilated blood vessels. It can also help bring down a fever.

When to Call the Doctor
If your child is younger than three months old, be sure to call the doctor at any sign of illness. Extra care should also be taken with children with chronic medical conditions. If your child is older than three months, call your pediatrician if you see any of the following symptoms:

  • Earache or ear discharge.
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.
  • Temperature is over 102° F.
  • A fever that lasts over 3 days.
  • A fever that goes away for 24 hours and then returns.
  • A sore throat that lasts over 5 days.
  • Nasal discharge that persists over 10 to 14 days.
  • Coughing that persists over 3 weeks.
  • The lips or nails turn blue.
  • Excessive sleepiness or crankiness.
  • Pus on the tonsils.

More information on the cold and flu can also be found on our website. If you need help determining how sick your child is, use our “Is Your Child Sick?” tool. It also includes great tips on home treatment. Our blog is another a great source of information. Visit our special section on the Cold and Flu.

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The Ultimate Cold and Flu Survival Guide

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