This time of year is both fun and frustrating. The holidays are in full swing and so are common colds and flus. To make things worse, illnesses can hang around for several months. So, it’s inevitable that your child will get sick.
But don’t worry, there are many things you can do to ease their discomfort and support their recovery. Let’s get started!
Colds and flu’s: what’s the difference?
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the difference between the common cold and the nasty flu. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “the flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses.”
So, can you tell which illness your child is sick with? Here’s a basic breakdown of symptoms:
- Milder than flu symptoms
- Runny and/or stuffy nose
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Glassy eyes
- Intense symptoms
- Body aches
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- If left untreated, flu can develop into bacterial infections and pneumonia
Should your child go to school when he or she is sick?
There isn’t a definitive answer to this question. This is a judgment call that you will have to make depending on your child’s symptoms and overall wellbeing.
If your child is in good spirits and has a runny nose and cough, it might not be necessary to keep them home. However, if your child has a fever of 101 F or higher, and is showing flu symptoms, it’s best to keep them back.
That’s because the body is busy fighting a virus and it’s important to support the body’s natural defense mechanisms with lots of rest and nourishing liquids (more on that later).
What to do if your child has pink eye
Pinkeye, or conjunctivitis, is a highly contagious eye infection. And even if your child is feeling and behaving well, do everyone a favor and keep your child home until he or she has recovered from pink eye.
What are the symptoms of pinkeye? Look for eye swelling, redness, irritation, as well as pus coming from the conjunctiva (the inner corners of the eye). Your pediatrician can recommend appropriate treatment for pinkeye and will let you know when your child is healthy again.
What about ear infections?
Unlike pinkeye, ear infections are not contagious.
Therefore, if your child doesn’t show any cold or flu symptoms, and feels otherwise okay, they can attend school and go about their other activities.
What to do when your child gets sick
The human body is remarkable, and usually, it can fight its own battles. Your job as a parent is to make sure your child is set up for success in overcoming colds, flu, conjunctivitis and ear infections. Here’s what you can do to help:
It takes a lot of energy for the body to fight an illness, so let your child rest. Now is the perfect time for them to watch their favorite cartoons, listen to audiobooks, and even play on their iPads if they’re up to it.
Put household chores, homework and other activities on hold. Their illness will probably impede their performance anyways. Once they’re well, there will be plenty of time for these activities.
Staying hydrated is key whenever there’s an illness, especially if it includes vomiting, diarrhea, and fevers. But not all fluids are made equally. For example, processed fruit juices and sugary milk or plant-based milk might not be your best bet. Instead, opt for these drinks:
Chicken Noodle soup
Research has found that this humble soup can help to lower upper respiratory cold symptoms, and it can help to positively affect mucus and air flow within the nose.
That’s right. Good old H20 might not seem very special, but it can help keep your child hydrated. Feel free to warm the water, and add a sprinkle of cinnamon (an anti-bacterial and anti-viral spice) along with a spoonful of raw local honey.
This type of honey is packed with antioxidants and enzymes, as well as antifungal, -bacterial, and -viral properties. Just what your child needs to boost their immunity.
Try to avoid processed fruit juices, and instead provide your child with fresh juice recipes. These can include cold-fighting fruits and vegetables, like beets, celery, apples, berries and more.
Offer nourishing foods
When your child gets sick, it’s important to serve them nourishing and easy-to-digest foods. That way, their bodies are nourished quickly and easily.
Here’s a roundup of five nourishing foods:
- Chicken noodle soup
- Fresh fruit and vegetable juices
- Sweet potatoes, for their high beta-carotene content, which in turn helps to strengthen the immunity
- Lean proteins, like boiled or steamed chicken and fish. These are easy for the body to digest, as opposed to baked or roasted meats.
- Coconut oil is thought to help boost the immune system, so go ahead and add it to all of the foods listed above.
- Remove sugars and dairy
When your child gets sick, you might want to serve up sweet comfort foods to make them feel better. But by doing so, you may set them back. That’s because sugar causes inflammation and actually weakens white blood cells – your body’s infection-fighting machines.
Dairy, though comforting and soothing, can increase the body’s mucus production, which can set the body back in its recovery process. Instead, serve foods that help the body detoxify and get rid of excess mucus, like the fluids listed above.
Allow the fever
This may seem both controversial and counterintuitive, but fevers are not a bad thing. In fact, it’s your body’s way to combat infection. According to Janice Sullivan, professor of pediatric clinical care at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, the fever boosts the body’s production of white blood cells.
So, by lowering the fever with medication, you remove the fever, but you also interrupt the body’s natural defense mechanism. In fact, this study suggests that suppressing a fever can prolong certain flu strains.
Instead, allow the fever, while pushing fluids and infection-fighting foods to support the body’s natural defenses.
When you should seek medical help for fevers
If your child is younger than three months with a fever over 100.4, it’s recommended to seek medical attention.
When it comes to toddlers and children. observe their behavior. If they seem like they’re in good spirits, rest assured that their body is on track. If a fever of 102 or 103 F lingers for more than 72 hours, and your child’s symptoms are worsening, seek medical help.
Of course, as a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. So, when in doubt, seek medical attention.
Administer medications and remedies when necessary
Whether you use mainstream medicine or natural remedies, including essential oils, homeopathy, as well as herbs and spices, do so judiciously and with caution, especially when treating children.
Read the fine print and pay attention to dosage amounts and schedules, as well as potential side effects. This way, you will support rather than hinder your child’s recovery.
When your child gets sick, don’t panic! Your child’s body is very intelligent and so are you. Together, you can beat the illness safely and responsibly.