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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

What's Your Cold and Flu IQ?

Pediatric health experts answer parents' top 10 questions about sneezy, sniffly cold-weather maladies.
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8.  What about home remedies? Do any work? continued...

Homemade saline nose sprays can help with congestion and unblock stuffy noses. Breathing in steam -- by standing in a steamed-up bathroom, for example -- also helps relieve nasal congestion, Rotbart says.

Rotbart is a big fan of chicken soup as a home remedy for cold and flu symptoms. Not only is the soup hydrating, but the steam may help with congestion.

"It's never been shown in a controlled trial with real people," he says. "I can't say with honesty that there's science in humans to back it up. But as my grandmother would say, 'What could it hurt?'"

9. How long until my child feels better?

"The typical cold will last about three to five days," says Smith, and your child will probably feel lousy for the first couple, then start to feel better. "The influenza virus can really knock your kid out for a bit longer -- usually at least five to seven days."

10.  How can we avoid colds and the flu altogether?

Make sure your kids frequently wash their hands, says Smith. And if your child is the one who's sick, reminders to practice "good cough etiquette" -- coughing or sneezing into an elbow or upper arm -- can help reduce the spread of infection.

Getting adequate sleep and exercising help bolster immunity against cold viruses, says Rotbart.

Finally, "Everybody really should get a flu vaccine," says Smith. "It's what we call a universal recommendation. The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months be vaccinated. That's really the best way to prevent the flu

Cold and Flu: Should Your Child See a Doctor?

The answer is yes if your kid has any of the following symptoms.

High fever. A fever of 101 degrees or higher lasting more than a couple of days warrants a call to the doctor. A baby younger than 6 months with a fever of 100.4 or higher should see a doctor. An unimmunized child who has a fever needs to be checked right away as well.

Breathing problems. Difficulty breathing or working hard to breathe -- at any age, not just in childhood -- is "a medical emergency more than anything else," says Michael J. Smith, MD. Call your doctor right away.

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