"Watching your child suffer, even if it's from something as minor as a nose that's sore and chapped from repeated blowing, is a terrible feeling for any parent," says Dr. Tanya Remer Altman, a mother and pediatrician who is a best-selling author and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Relieving the discomforts related to cold and flu not only helps kids feel better, it also reduces stresses for their parents."
"Dr. Tanya," as she's known to her patients and the millions who've seen her on the Today Show or who follow her blog, offers some tips to help parents make children feel more comfortable while fighting a cold or the flu:
- Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older, but it's not unusual for children to fear a shot. Ask your pediatrician about giving your child the flu vaccine in a nasal spray form. It's available for children 2 and older, and provides the same protection and safety as the traditional flu shot.
- Your mother probably swore by chicken soup and she was on to something. Serving sick children chicken soup not only gives them the benefit of nourishment while their bodies are fighting a virus, studies show chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties as well. Plus, it's a popular comfort food that most kids love.
- Sore, chapped noses add to the discomfort of having a cold. Tissues with added lotion, like Puffs Plus with Lotion, can help prevent chapping from frequent nose blowing and wiping. The strong, lotion-filled tissues can help children get more out of their nose blowing, ensuring they're confident they can blow without getting anything "icky" on their little hands. You can also use petroleum jelly or unscented ointment to soothe the irritation and discomfort.
- Another way to help relieve a stuffy nose is to try a few drops of nasal saline and gentle suctioning. A cool mist humidifier and a liberal application of Vicks on children older than 2 can also help, especially at night when lying down can make a child feel stuffy. Remember, however, never to use Vicks on children younger than 2 years old; it may actually increase the mucus in their airways.
- Frequent hand-washing is important to prevent the spread of viruses. Yet washing your hands a lot, especially in cold weather, can leave them dry, sore and cracked. Teach your children to wash their hands while singing "Wash, wash, wash your hands, wash them every day. Wash them with water and wash them with soap to wash the germs away" to the tune of "Row, row, row your boat." Then follow up with a soothing lotion. You can find many fragrance-free varieties specially formulated for children.
- When your child's throat is sore, he might be unwilling to eat or drink much. Offer a sugar-free fruit Popsicle instead. The coolness can help ease a sore throat, your child will get some hydration from the frozen juice and he'll feel like he's getting a special treat.
- Make trips to the doctor's office fun by bringing a book or toy to keep your child occupied, and a snack in case she gets hungry. A special reward or treat after the visit is also a nice tradition.