Cold or Flu?
Your survival guide for the sniffly, sneezy, achy, queasy season.
Kids: Colds & Flu continued...
Skip a cough suppressant for minor coughs, since coughing helps bring up extra
mucus. Instead, try fluids-such as water; other cool fluids, such as a favorite
juice; or warm fluids, like warm water with honey and lemon juice-to help keep
your child comfortable. If the cough is severe, call your pediatrician, who may
advise a prescription cough remedy.
Decongestants such asr pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and cold medicines with a
decongestant help dry up mucus and open nasal passages a little. But some of
these products are stimulants, so they are not good to give at night.
Decongestants can give children some comfort during the day by opening
breathing passages. The problem is, they are drying and can make mucus thicker
and harder to get rid of.
Medications that contain an antihistamine, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine),
are for allergies-they don't help with a cold or the flu. They do nothing to
cut down on mucus and are very drying. They do tend to cause drowsiness, which
is why they're often in nighttime cold medicines.
Saline sprays can make a dry nose feel better. Decongestant nasal sprays are
effective at cutting down runny noses in kids (but don't use them for
babies-they have not been tested on infants).
Pepto-Bismol can relieve upset stomach and diarrhea, symptoms of a stomach
virus-not the flu! Remember, there is no such thing as "stomach
If your child has a fever, do not give Pepto-Bismol, particularly if he/she
has symptoms of chickenpox or the flu. The active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol is
related to aspirin (but is not aspirin). Aspirin has been linked to a serious
condition in children with fever called Reye's syndrome. Check with your doctor
before giving Pepto-Bismol to any child with a fever.
The CDC recommends that everyone get a flu shot. The following groups are
highly recommended to have flu shots:
- Infants from 6 to 23 months old.
- Children (or adults) with a chronic illness, making them more susceptible
to the flu.
- Caregivers and others in contact with infants younger than 6 months.
- Women who are pregnant during the flu season (especially December and
When to Call the Doctor
If you-or your child-aren't feeling better after five days, call your
doctor, especially if you have any of these severe symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain: These could be signs
of more serious problems, including pneumonia, asthma, or even a heart
- Persistent fever: This can be a sign of another infection
that should be treated.
- Severe headache: This could indicate meningitis, an
inflammation of the lining of the brain.
- Vomiting or inability to keep fluids down: If you are
vomiting frequently, you may be at serious risk of dehydration, which means
there isn't enough fluid in your body to get blood to your organs.
- Painful swallowing: Although a sore throat from a cold or
flu can cause mild discomfort, severe pain could mean strep throat, which
requires treatment by a doctor.
- Persistent coughing: When a cough doesn't go away after
two or three weeks, it could be bronchitis-which may need an antibiotic-or due
to postnasal drip. However, it could also be related to asthma or pertussis
- Persistent congestion and headaches: When colds and
allergies cause congestion and blockage of sinus passages, they can lead to
sinus infection. You may need an antibiotic.