With all the recent hype about over the counter cold relievers not working for young children, I thought it might be helpful to mention some old fashioned remedies that seem to help. Let’s start with what a cold, cough, and flu actually are: I read this once and hopefully I have remembered correctly. A cold is a gradual onset viral problem. That can include chills, fever, coughing, congestion, runny nose, tired etc. A cough is just that- a cough. Typically a symptom of a cold but sometimes exhibits itself with no other symptoms. The flu has sudden onset and can include symptoms of a cold but may also include intestinal symptoms like vomitting, diarrhea, gas, nausea, etc. These are all viruses and can not be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections.
Why is it then that doctors prescribe antibiotics for these illnesses? Sometimes doctors prescribe them simply because you want them. Why then do you get better after taking some of the antibiotic? Because the disease has run its course and it just happens to coincide with your use of antibiotics. Sometimes they prescribe them because the illness has drug on for close to a week and they want to make sure it has not turned into a bacterial infection. They are “covering their butts”, so to speak or covering all the basis. Sometimes they can tell from your symptoms that you have acquired a bacterial infection along with your virus.
Just from being a mom, I don’t have any medical training so this is NOT medical advice, here are the symptoms and signs that you or your child might have a bacterial infection and need to see a doctor.
- Green snot, boogers, discharge- whatever you want to call it. If the stuff coming out of your nose or being coughed up is green, you probably need to see a doctor.
- Ear pain- not to be confused with the feeling that they are plugged. However, children cannot tell the difference. Little babies who cannot talk will rub their ear constantly, tug on it, cry a lot, scream when the ear is touched (sometimes)
- High fever- For children, their temperature can go quite high when their body is fighting a virus. Even up to 103 with none of the other symptoms in my list could mean their body is just doing its job. If they have high fever and it scares you, call your doctor. Adults, anything over 101 is probably a sign of needing to see the doctor. Adults bodies handle viruses differently than children and high fevers are in the “need to see the doctor” realm at a much lower range.
- Severe headache in the front of the head or in the face- could be signs of a sinus infection. If a hot shower does not help and moving around makes it feel like your face is going to fall right off your head and it has lasted for several days, call the doctor. Dark circles under the eyes or puffiness in the face sometimes occurs with this sinus pain.
- Symptoms of Croup in children-Croup almost always occurs at night. Children with croup bark like a seal. It’s a little more high pitched than the bronchitis-like bark that we hear more often. Their breathing sounds raspy like they can’t get enough air. They may complain that it hurts in their throat and chest area but differently than the “I have a sore throat” complaints. Croup also causes “chest retraction”. Normal breathing in children, the stomach portion of their body naturally puffs outward when they inhale. When a child has croup, it does the opposite. The stomach sucks way in and the rib area puffs out a little as the lungs try to suck in air that won’t come in very easily. Children with severe croup may have a gray tinge to their skin or their lips may be blue. If the gray tinge or blue lips is present, this is an emergency. If there skin and lips are normal color, you can try something. Take the child outside into the cool night air. If you are concerned about the cold temperatures, wrap them up but leave their face out so the cold, moist night air can get into their lungs. If their barking does not subside, you can also turn the shower on hot and let it run while your child sits in the bathroom (not in the hot shower, silly) for 10 min. or so. As soon as you turn the shower off, take the child immediately outside. This sort of shocks the bronchial tubes and sometimes works better than just going outside.
Anyway, back to the home remedies for cold and flu season:
- Hot beverages- with children, make them warm, not hot.
- No dairy- dairy increases mucus/snot
- Chicken soup- really! Studies show that something in chicken soup really does work but they don’t know what it is. . ..
- Vicks Vapor Rub- rub on chest, back, or even feet to thin mucus.
- Hot Shower- in childern, make it warm but a shower will have more ongoing steam than a bath. Then wrap up really warm and take a nap.
- Sleep sitting closer to upright position to reduce coughing. Sleep with 2 pillows or in your recliner. With infants, place a folded blanket underneath their crib mattress on one end. Do not put it in with the infant but between the mattress and springy part.