Baby's First Cold & Flu Season

Is There a Magic Cure?

The simple truth: There is no quick fix for a cold or the flu. Antibiotics aren't effective against viruses, and antiviral drugs for some influenza strains aren't approved for babies. Plus, a growing body of research suggests that decongestants and combination decongestant-antihistamine products are not very effective in children, who can also experience side effects, such as jitteriness or difficulty sleeping. Most pediatricians don't recommend these medications for babies, and many are now advising parents to use them minimally for all kids. Nonprescription cough suppressants and expectorants have also been shown to have little effect on coughs linked to colds in kids, and experts advise against their use in children under age 14.

Doctors' Recommendations

To prevent influenza, babies should receive a flu shot at 6 months, then a booster four weeks later and an annual shot until age 5. And whether your child has a cold or the flu, she still needs to feel comfortable.

  • Keep infant or children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen on hand for fevers, and make sure you know the correct dosage for baby's age and weight.
  • As soon as the runny nose starts, put a vaporizer or cool-mist humidifier in your kid's bedroom to help keep nasal passages moist, which prevents mucus from drying out and thickening.
  • Also use a saline nasal wash; it's available at pharmacies as a spray or drops and has no side effects besides making babies sneeze, which will also help unplug noses. (If you choose to use a nasal aspirator, gently do so after administering the saline solution.)

Moreover, these surefire strategies will help you bottle- and breastfeed more smoothly because baby will be able to breathe better and will be less likely to fuss. And when you want to help your child sleep soundly when he's sick, raise the head of the crib (by placing a rolled towel or books under the mattress), or prop toddlers and preschoolers up in bed with extra pillows. This helps mucus drain more freely away from the lungs.

In the end, it's the simple things, such as lots of fluids, that can make kids feel better. And don't forget chicken soup -- there is actually some research that suggests this time-honored remedy may help to reduce inflammation and thin mucus during a cold. But, of course, moms don't need scientific proof of that.

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