During the winter months, seasonal illnesses such as coughs and colds become more frequent, especially in kids whose immune systems are still developing. Maintaining good health can help fight germs. Understanding what illness your child may have and properly treating the symptoms are key to faster recovery and preventing health complications.
Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
Keep your child appropriately dressed for the weather. (Your child should be warm but not to the point of sweating!)
Teach your child to cough and sneeze into their elbow - not their hand.
Pack healthy snacks and lunches that include nutrient-rich, immune-boosting foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables.
Ensure your child gets plenty of rest.
Many over-the-counter cough and cold medications contain potentially harmful active ingredients (such as dextromethorphan, pseudoephedrine, diphenhydramine or guaifenesin) and are banned by Health Canada for use in children under six years of age.
There are many natural alternatives that are safe and effective in children, including those under age six:
Drink plenty of warm fluids and rest. Herbal teas made with licorice, elderberry, ginger and sage are wonderful for fighting colds. You can add honey if your child is older than one year of age.
Add raw garlic to your meals and make use of this potent germ fighter!
Use essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tree, mint, oregano and thyme and add them to a cool mist humidifier, or apply in a carrier oil on the chest, back and soles of the feet. This helps break up congestion and allows for easier breathing.
Use homeopathic medicines formulated for children’s colds and coughs. Boiron’s Coryzalia is wonderful for colds, particularly sinus congestion, and is safe in infants from one-month-old. For both dry and wet coughs, Stodal cough syrup works great for kids 17 pounds and heavier.
Little ones can’t blow their noses. Manual aspiration is required to remove excess mucus from their nasal passages. Saline solutions can help soften and clear the mucus, which helps reduce congestion and improves breathing. Use an aspirator to suck out mucus from young children’s nasal passages. Older children can use saline nasal irrigation. Look for brands that are specifically labelled for infants and children. For example, both hydraSense and NeilMed have pediatric-specific nasal irrigation kits. Always follow the product directions and ensure your child’s head is in the proper position to avoid getting water into the throat.
When to see a doctor
Children may get up to six to 10 colds in a year, which usually do not require medical attention. However, if your child is having difficulties breathing, has a high fever, a ‘barky’ cough, is having difficulties eating, drinking or sleeping, or if symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention.
Enjoy your winter and all its festivities and outdoor activities!
Dr. Stephanie Yaremko, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor with an active family practice in Calgary. She provides wholistic and natural treatments, through individualized care, that focus on prevention.
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