Winter's just started, but your four year-old has come home from kindy with yet another cold. It only seems like last week when the whole family was getting over the last bug.
You're not imagining things when you feel like your kids get one cold after another. There are more than 200 different viruses that cause the common cold. Children don't have the same immunity as adults to many of the different cold viruses, so while most adults will get a couple of colds a year, young children are likely to pick up 5–10 colds a year. It’s also likely that kids get more colds because of their very close contact with other children at childcare, kindy and school – and because they frequently forget to wash their hands!
So what can you do to help soothe the symptoms of colds this winter and how can you help stop the spread?
Soothe the symptoms
There's no cure for the common cold and antibiotics don't help — because antibiotics fight bacteria, not the viruses that cause colds.
Most colds will get better by themselves in 7–10 days, although a cough can hang around for 3 weeks.
Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do to help your child feel better:
- Extra rest helps the body fight the cold virus. It doesn’t need to be in bed: children will enjoy sitting on the couch with some books, their favourite music or DVDs.
- Plenty of water helps to keep your child's throat moist and to thin down mucus.
- A steam vaporiser may help to relieve coughing, especially at night.
- Lots of extra comfort and cuddles help anyone to feel better when they're sick.
Stop the spread!
Not every cold needs to be shared with the whole family:
- Washing your own and your children's hands with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds is the number one way to stop colds from spreading. Wash hands before preparing or eating food and after coughing, sneezing and blowing noses.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, and then quickly throw the tissue away. Teach your kids to do the same.
- Don't share glasses, mugs or cutlery.
- Wipe down bench tops, remote controls, door knobs, phones and keyboards.
What about cold and cough medicines?
It's understandable that many parents are confused about what medicines are okay to give young children when they have a cold. In 2012 the government found that certain ingredients contained in children's cough and cold medicines, like antihistamines, cough suppressants, expectorants and decongestants, don't really help much and may have health risks.
As a result, these medicines are no longer recommended for children under 6 years and should only be given to children aged 6–11 years with the advice of a health professional.
The new requirements make good sense and help to protect our children, but what do you do if you want to help soothe your kid's cold symptoms? A homeopathic cough & cold product may help.
For ideas on boosting your immunity to help avoid colds this season, also have a look at our 5 top tips to boost immunity.