It is difficult as a parent to watch your child become ill. Fall and winter are the best times of year to get sick, with the flu and the common cold being the two most common. Most children are predicted to get a cold six to eight times each year (and more frequently if they attend daycare), and 20 to 30 percent of kids are predicted to get the flu each year.
It can be challenging to tell the difference between the flu and a cold, which makes deciding whether to take medication much more difficult. When your child has the sniffles, it can seem like the best course of action to give them cold or flu drugs, but that isn’t always the case.
Here, with the assistance of professionals, we’ll examine all you should know about giving your child cold and flu medication.
Understanding Children’s Cold and Flu Symptoms
Knowing the difference between the flu and a cold is useful because the symptoms of the two illnesses can often be difficult to tell apart. Here’s how to identify each type.
There are some broad recommendations for cold symptoms, while every child is unique. As a doctor at Einstein Pediatrics in Vienna, Virginia, Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP states, “It is crucial for parents to know what to expect in a ‘normal cold’.” Parents frequently seek for drugs because they worry that their child’s cold is “staying too long.”
She notes that the most typical cold symptoms in infants and toddlers include a runny nose, cough, and fever, which usually peak on the second or third day of sickness. They should progressively get better over a period of 10 to 14 days, but a persistent cough can endure for three to four weeks.
Children’s Common Cold Symptoms
- Clogged nose
- A minor fever
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nasal clogging
Older children can also experience headaches, muscle pains, a mild hacking cough, watery eyes, sneezing, and a watery nasal discharge that typically thickens and turns yellow or green. The symptoms of a cold are similar in older children. According to Dr. Segura, symptoms in older kids and teenagers normally go away in five to seven days.
There are three primary forms of influenza: influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C, with varieties A and B appearing practically every winter. Flu vaccinations are crucial since complications with types A and B can result in hospitalization. It is possible for influenza type C to produce just minor respiratory symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Typical Flu Symptoms in Children
- 103°F (39.4°C) to 105°F (40.5°C) high-grade fever
- The cough and sore throat
- Runny or congested nose
- Bodily, muscular, or head pain
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
Although children’s flu symptoms are similar to those of a cold, one of the greatest distinctions is their fever. A low-grade fever from a cold may develop into a fever of 103°F (39.4°C) to 105°F (40.5°C) with the flu. That being said, not everyone who has the flu will experience a fever, much like with a cold.
The most typical flu symptoms in children, aside from high-grade fever, include a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, muscular and body pains, lethargy, cough, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Using Cold and Flu Medicine on Your Child
Unless specifically advised otherwise by a healthcare professional, over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medication for infants and toddlers should be avoided whenever feasible. Corey Fish, MD, a pediatrician and the chief medical officer at Brave Care in Portland, Oregon, says there is “no evidence that cold and flu drugs make any difference for unwell children.” The American Academy of Pediatrics really advises against giving these medications to children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against giving children under the age of six over-the-counter cold and flu medications.
Nevertheless, not all drugs are inappropriate for use in young children. According to their symptoms, the safest alternatives for babies, toddlers, and older kids are as follows:
A Fever or Hurt
The safest alternatives for children over three months include acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for those older than three months and ibuprofen (such as Motrin) for those older than six months when it comes to treating fever, headaches, or other pain.
Children under three months old may also take these medications, according to Dr. Fish, as long as you first talk to a healthcare professional. Reye syndrome, a rare but highly deadly condition that affects the liver and the brain, is another reason why kids and teenagers should never use aspirin.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against giving aspirin to kids or teenagers due to the possibility of Reye Syndrome.
Fortunately, a stuffy nose may be treated in kids of all ages. Dr. Segura claims that saline nasal drops or a nasal spray can safely treat nasal congestion in people of all ages, even babies. She notes that for kids over the age of 12, decongestants such pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed), phenylephrine (found in many oral cold and flu medications), or oxymetazoline can be helpful (such as Afrin).
Use of a suction bulb is a secure, reliable substitute for nasal sprays if you would choose for infants (especially under six months of age). To aid in the clearing of congestion, you can also put a cold-mist humidifier in your child’s room.
The best thing you can do is let a cough run its course because the AAP advises against OTC cough and cold drugs for young children. A cough is generally regarded as a sign of a cold or flu. It’s vital to remember that your child has to cough up mucus to protect their lungs from pneumonia.
However, if necessary, there are some secure methods to suppress a cough. According to Dr. Segura, treating a cough with hard candy or lozenges is risk-free for children over the age of six and poses no choking hazard.
For children older than one year olds who have a cough, Dr. Fish advises giving them one to two teaspoons of honey. Honey should never be given to infants under the age of one due to the risk of botulism, an uncommon and potentially fatal condition brought on by a toxin that assaults the body’s nerves.
Hints for Administering Cold and Flu Medication to Children
There are certain crucial guidelines to bear in mind when giving your child any medication for a cold or the flu. The dosing spoon, medicine cup, dropper, or syringe that are included with the medication should always be used. If one is not offered, consult your physician. Never ever measure with any household spoon.
Dr. Fish advises cutting a slit in a pacifier well to load the medication if you need assistance giving medicine to a small child who uses a pacifier. He advises mixing medication with something sweet-tasting, such juice or chocolate syrup, for older kids.
In keeping with this, you shouldn’t ever refer to medicine as “candy” because doing so can persuade kids to take it when you’re not looking, putting them at risk of poisoning.
Check the dosage chart frequently because the dosage you provide depends on your child’s weight. Most essential, if you have any queries about medication, you should never hesitate to call your doctor.
Even though there are many different cold and flu medications available for children, it’s usually preferable to let an illness progress naturally.
The safest options for children are acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and saline nasal sprays. Children under the age of six should not take over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medications unless specifically authorized by a healthcare professional. Your child will quickly regain their health and happiness if you give them lots of rest, water, and cuddles.