Dr Laura on Cold!

WINTER IS COMING!

As the warm summer weather fades away* and the evenings begin to darken, an enemy begins to creep into our homes and into the lives of our children. This enemy does not care who it targets, in fact, it has a cruel preference for babies and young children. You cannot run, you cannot hide, for it is the season of SNOT.

*If you blinked you may have missed 2017’s beautiful summer weather!

If you have Nursery aged children, you may be forgiven for thinking that they seem snotty pretty much all year round anyway, however the common cold becomes all the more common over the colder autumn and winter months. Babies and children are so much more susceptible to picking up these viruses as their little immune systems are still learning to fight the germs away. There remains no cure for the common cold as yet, this is because so many different viruses can cause ‘cold’ symptoms that there can’t possibly be a treatment that will cure them all.  Alas, as there is sadly no miracle cure on the horizon, our best plan of attack as Mams is preparation and damage limitation.

The classic symptoms of a cold virus (incase you’re lucky enough to have forgotten) are a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, headache, coughing and a high temperature. These symptoms typically last around ten days to a fortnight, and children often take longer than adults to recover.

We’ve all had a cold. It’s a pretty miserable time (if you’re a Man, you may indeed feel as though you are dying). But as a Mam it can be even more difficult to helplessly watch your little ones suffer so it’s really important to try and relieve the symptoms as they crop up.

Here are my top tips for helping little ones with cold symptoms :

  1. Fluids are your friend. I know I say this a lot (and I may as well have it as the headline of my articles from now on) but if your child is unwell it is absolutely imperative that they stay hydrated. Having a fever can quickly lead to dehydration and when they are poorly children often don’t want to drink much, which then makes dehydration even more likely. Your little one may not fancy eating much food, especially if they have a sore throat, but ice cream, soups and ice lollies are usually a hit and are a sneaky way of getting some extra fluid and calories into them if needed.
  2. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are both safe to use in children over the age of 3 months (check the dosing instructions carefully and never exceed maximum dose) and are particularly useful if your little one has a fever or is suffering from a sore throat.
  3. Older babies (over 1y) and children may find it helpful for their head to be raised slightly, as being flat can make it more difficult to breathe when they’re all bunged up. Try rolling a towel and popping it under the head end of their mattress for little ones, or offering extra pillows to older children.
  4. If blocked, stuffy little noses are a problem, try saline nasal drops (http://www.boots.com/calpol-soothe-and-care-saline-nasal-drops-10ml-10141053) to help clear some of the mucus in the nose, especially before feeding or at bedtime. Medicated decongestants such as sprays and tablets aren’t recommended in young children, but some decongestant products can be helpful to help relieve symptoms. My go-to products for bunged up babas are Snufflebabe Vapour Rub (http://www.boots.com/snufflebabe-vapour-rub-24g-10068973) and the Calpol Vapour plug in (http://www.boots.com/calpol-vapour-plug-and-nightlight-10069275) These products obviously won’t get rid of the cold, but may just help your little one get a bit more rest, and anything that does that for a poorly baby is a win in my book.

The good news is most colds are mild and self-limiting illnesses. This means that they will eventually go away with no treatment once the immune system has fought off the virus. Antibiotics will not cure or help cold symptoms as they are only used to fight infections caused by bacteria, whereas colds are caused by viruses.

However, there are obviously occasions where you should take your little one to see a Doctor as although colds are usually nothing to be worry about, they can occasionally be associated with more serious problems such as ear infections, chest infections and tonsillitis, which may indeed need antibiotics or other further treatment. If your child is younger than 6 months old and has a high temperature (over 38°c) I would advise popping to your GP Surgery to get them checked over.  I would also advise seeing a Doctor or Nurse if symptoms last more than three weeks, if there is associated earache or chest pain, if symptoms are getting worse and not better or if there is any difficulty in breathing. I’m also a big fan of trusting your Mummy instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, and you are worried, then take your child to be checked out.

By Dr Laura.

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