Cold and flu season is over, thankfully, but even with the kids home from school, they’ll still probably end up with a summer cold, a stomach virus or an ear infection. While very young children should see the doctor if you suspect illness, your school-aged kids can often be nursed back to health with simple home remedies. Here are some tips on keeping everyone healthy and happy this summer. (As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s health, or if he has underlying health issues, seek medical advice from a healthcare professional.)
- Summer Colds and Allergies
Peak allergy and cold season has come and gone, but pollens, molds, and viruses are still floating around. If you hear the telltale coughing and sneezing, or if your child has a runny nose or scratchy throat, run a humidifier in his bedroom to keep the air moist, particularly if you have central air conditioning, which dries out the air (and his mucous membranes). Stir honey into herbal tea to soothe a sore throat, and give him chicken soup (canned will do in a pinch), which will keep him hydrated and may make him feel better. Vitamin C can reduce the duration of a cold; don’t give him extra supplements without checking with the doctor, but offer him orange juice, segments of citrus fruits, broccoli and raw red pepper strips to boost his dietary intake.
- Tummy Trouble
Most of the time, vomiting and diarrhea needs to simply run its course. If your child has a high fever or is vomiting uncontrollably, seek medical care. Otherwise, offer fluids one sip at a time to prevent dehydration. If he doesn’t want to drink anything, try offering popsicles or jello. Once vomiting stops, transition into the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) for a day or so to allow his system to recuperate. Wait a couple of days before giving him dairy products again, as they can cause a relapse. Usually, stomach viruses are over in a day or two; if your child is still sick after this period of time, call the doctor.
In children over 2 years of age, many doctors recommend waiting a few days before giving antibiotics for an ear infection as long as the child has a normal and healthy immune system. Since earaches can be very painful, you may need to give him an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can also give him a hot water bottle to hold against his ear. One home remedy that I’ve used is to soak a chopped clove of garlic in olive oil for a half hour or so, then rub the garlic oil around the outer portion of the ear. Don’t put anything in the ear, and if you notice any drainage or the condition doesn’t resolve in two or three days, see the doctor.
With luck and good hygiene, your child might be able to avoid some of these summertime maladies. Remind him to wash his hands often to ward off cold germs, and follow safe food handling practices to prevent food poisoning. Also, fresh air, plenty of exercise and a diet filled with healthy foods can go a long way in keeping his immune system in tip-top shape, so be sure to offer lots of fruits and veggies and send him out to play every day!