Every year we go through the same thing and it feels like once October rolls around which is barely the beginning of cold and flu season, but after a summer of playing outside, being sequestered in a classroom all day gives the germs ample time to infect a large group of kids. While most colds and sneezes are no reason to keep the kids home from school, they are annoying. Also, as flu season gets underway, the illnesses circulating become more serious: influenza can lead to high fevers, body aches, dehydration and, in some cases, pneumonia and other secondary infections. Here’s what you need to know to get through the season safely:
Your grandmother always said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is particularly true in the case of colds and flus, which don’t really have cures! Talk to your doctor about the benefits of receiving the influenza vaccine: While it’s not 100 percent effective, it can reduce your chances of getting the flu. If you’d rather avoid the needle, you and your kids might be candidates for the inhaled version; certain health conditions make it contraindicated, though, so don’t promise “no shots” to your children unless you know for sure that they’re able to get it safely. Aside from the vaccine, which doesn’t prevent the common cold, washing your hands frequently and avoiding sick people are your best defenses against all kinds of sicknesses. Also, be sure to eat right, exercise and get enough sleep; a healthy body is one that can fight off germs more efficiently.
If You Get Sick
If you do feel the telltale signs of sickness, which might include a sore throat, fever, general malaise, fatigue, headache and a wet or dry cough, you’ll need to run damage control. Continue washing your hands frequently, and cover your coughs and sneezes to help prevent spreading your germs. Drink your orange juice: Vitamin C can help reduce the length of the common cold. And your grandma was also right about chicken soup; apparently between the broth, the garlic and the moist heat, it might be just what you need to feel better. Not just that, the broth helps you stay hydrated!
Don’t give young children cold medications unless specifically advised to do so by their doctor, but if you need to take a symptom relief to get through the day or to sleep better, go ahead and do so. Make sure you’re not overdosing on any one ingredient by double checking labels: If you take a multi-symptom formula, it might contain acetaminophen, and taking Tylenol on top of it could lead to health problems. Taking Airborne or Emergen-C may when you first feel a cold coming on may help shorten your cold but there is no scientific proof of this. Zicam is good to take at the first sign on a cold.
When to Call the Doctor
Most of the time, colds and flu pass by uneventfully in about a week. If you do get a fever in and start feeling bad rather quickly you may think about calling your doctor because they may be able to get you on Tamiflu and that will possibly cut the flu symptoms down by a few days. There are a few symptoms that warrant a call to the doctor, though. If you or your child has asthma or other respiratory problems, or if this is your baby’s first illness, call the doctor right away for advice. Flu symptoms in a young child should prompt you to call the doctor, but cold symptoms, which are milder, don’t need to be reported if the child is acting normal, eating, sleeping and playing. If you’ve been mildly ill for a few days and then take a turn for the worse, also give a call: This can indicate as secondary infection, such as a sinus infection, bronchitis or pneumonia. Also, a fever that goes away and returns or that lasts longer than three days is another warning sign. Wheezing, trouble breathing and vomiting that doesn’t stop are symptoms for which you should seek urgent medical care.
I you have kids with asthma you may want to have them use their peak flow meter and record the readings so you can catch any possible lung issues early. Also, if you have to travel you may want to take your nebulizer or by a portable one to take with you in case your child gets sick while you are away.
With good hygiene and a good bit of luck, your family should make it through cold and flu season relatively unscathed, though chances are that there is at least one cold in your near future, particularly if you have kids in school. Stay healthy!
Sites That Link to this Post
- Preventing Family Sickness: Cold and Flu Season is Back | October 26, 2012