Friday, September 13, 2019

10 Quick tips on getting relief from children's colds and coughs:

Flu season has been here a while, and doesn't seem to be getting any better. Most cold and cough medications do not work effectively (if at all), and we often go through bottles before our kids get any relief. It used to make me wonder whether they would have recovered in that much time on their own anyway?

After having tried several cough syrups, we tend to wait and give fever medication as needed (acetaminophen or paracetamol, with ibuprofen as an alternate as needed), and avoid cough and cold syrups which have never seemed to have much of an effect on my kids anyway. Because of this though, we have a list of other things we do when the kids are unwell, below are some of our go-to helpers!

Quick ways to give your children relief from flu, colds and coughs:

1. Eucalyptus oil:
This wonderful essential oil can be found in products from bath washes to vapor rubs and balms, and is great for opening up nasal passages and even bringing down fever - when used in the right form. Eucalyptus drops can be put on the pillow and bedding to help open nasal passages. The vapor rub form can be put on bedding too and is even effective when on the child's chest. It can be used on the soles of the feet too (under loose socks, or under the blanket and this helps bring down fever), and on the forehead (when your child is asleep so that they do not rub it into their eyes). This is recommended for children of 6 months of age and older only.

2. Raising their heads:
Some children sleep on pillows, but many (particularly babies), should not due to the choking hazard posed by any loose bedding in their bassinets, co sleepers or cribs. However, raising their heads does help them sleep better when congested, and keeps mucus from coming back up at night. This can be done by putting a gradated foam wedge, or even a thin pillow under the child's mattress. For thinner bassinet mattresses, a folded baby blanket does the trick too.

3. Cold patches:
There are several cold patches in the market that are amazing at bringing down high fever. These stick on to the forehead and prevent fever from shooting very high. My son in particular tends to get viral fever that shoots up to 103/4 degrees, which can be terrifying, and we often have to ice his forehead or shove him into a cold shower. However, these patches if applied early and kept on, can (in conjunction with fever medication of course), keep the fever from rising too high, and save you some screams (plus, it's painful for you too, to have to put your child in an ice bath).

4. Steam:
I often use a steam machine when I'm congested. However, I just don't feel safe using that around my kids, as the water is usually boiling, kids do not sit that still, and the combination is a hazard that I don't want to dwell on. However, if you run the hot water in the shower or the sink, and your child is in the bathroom (standing away from the water), even this is potent enough to help unclog their nostrils and offer them relief. You can even fill the sink and put some drops of eucalyptus oil in there, which helps. (This is usually a last resort option, as I hate to leave water running, but it is extremely effective).

5. Saline Nasal drops:
Plain saline nose drops, are most hated by the kids. However, if you can administer it effectively (often only once, and then you have to hide it away until the kids forget what it looks like), they work wonders to relieve congestion. You can try these when the kids are asleep too, but they will wake up when you're only done with one side.

6. Use a humidifier/ dehumidifier/ air purifier:
Depending on where you live and the air quality, one or both is needed. When the air is cold or dry, a humidifier keeps allergies at bay, and also prevents nose bleeds and dry coughs (this is great in the winter too).
In countries like India, where it is moist and humid, a dehumidifier is needed to remove any mould and moisture from the air - which can make you just as sick. (We use one through the monsoon months and not just because my entire bedroom gets wet with condensation).
An air purifier, is a must all year round in cities where it's polluted. I've noticed a marked increase in my own immunity, before and after we had this installed.

7. Rule out allergies and clear out allergens:
If your child is getting frequent colds, or dry coughs and often without fever or any other symptoms, it could be allergenic. The most common allergens around children tend to be chalk, dust and stuffed animals. My daughter for one loves her stuffed toys, but we try and stick to ones that are not very furry, as they give my son the sniffles. Make sure to wash these regularly too.
If eliminating the common allergens does not bring relief, you can get a simple allergy test done for your child. Do note though to take the results with a pinch of salt and use a process of trial and error yourself to ensure that they really are allergic and you are not cutting things out of their diet for nothing (chocolate, gluten and milk are common allergens that show up).

8. Keep hydrated:
When they are unwell (particularly with fever or diarrhoea), it's most important to keep them well hydrated. Kids with colds and coughs often throw up as well, its their bodies way of expelling mucus. This too can be dehydrating, so keep giving them water, or even electrolytes as needed.

9. Fever medication rules:
Fever meds should be given every 4-6 hours. I find that alternating medications (usually paracetamol alternated with ibuprofen) tend to be the most effective, specially for my son who tends to get very high spikes. For my younger one, something mild is effective enough. So your child's pattern is important, as is ensuring that they get the dose they need before the fever spikes too high (it will save you from having to put them in water and bring it down).

10. Alternative therapies:
I get a lot of questions on alternative therapies for children. I find that herbal therapies like putting heated ajwain (carrom seeds) wrapped in cloth on their chest does help. There are a ton of these but ensure that they are safe to try before you experiment. In terms of homeopathy and alternative medicine - it's controversial as to whether it works or not - I've never found it to be effective for me, but it is completely up to you to decide what is right and what works for your child! These also tend to differ between doctors and patients too (just test the meds though to make sure you are not giving them anything with steroids).

If your kids fall sick very often, do ask your pediatricians about immunity supplements too!
Hope your kids have a peaceful flu season!!
More to come

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  1. Bahut hi effective n useful remedies hain, hum khud bhi yehi sab use karty thy, ab to sab aur advance ho gaya hai 👍👍
    Nasal drops sabse last me hi prefer karti hu 😊

  2. Hello, These are useful tips. Most important thing I do when my 4 year old son get cold, fever, cough is wash his hair thoroughly. He has thick hair and often sweats. Washing off his hair mostly helps reducing cough and cold and also the mucus from his nose comes out easily

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