Cold and Flu Tips for Parents

Every child gets sick from time to time. When your child isn’t feeling well, you’ll want to know how to help and when to call the doctor. Try these quick and easy tips to keep the winter sniffles and coughs from taking over your family this season.

Think Prevention!

To keep germs in their place, practice these healthy habits:

  • Wash your hands and make sure your child’s hands are washed thoroughly and often.
  • Don’t share drinking and eating utensils with others (especially if someone isn’t feeling well).
  • Don’t pick up used tissues, but if you must, pick them up with a clean paper towel and wash your hands immediately after.
  • Avoid crowds during a flu epidemic.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. The best way is to sneeze or cough into your elbow or shirtsleeve, which helps prevent the spread of germs on your hands.

What’s the Best Medicine for the Common Cold?

“Time cures all. That may not be always true, but in the case of the common cold, it’s pretty close,” says Kate Cronan, a pediatrician and medical editor for KidsHealth.org. “While they have a cold, children should avoid vigorous activity and should get plenty of rest and fluids.”

KidsHealth recommends these helpful treatments:

To treat cold symptoms:

  • Use saltwater drops in the nostrils to relieve nasal congestion.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture.
  • Put petroleum jelly on the skin under the nose to soothe rawness.
  • An older child (over 4 years old) can have hard candy or cough drops to suck on to relieve sore throat pain.  
  • Consume plenty of extra non-caffeinated fluids – water and juice.

To treat flu symptoms:

  • Offer lots of non-caffeinated fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Have your child get plenty of sleep and take it easy.
  • If your child is uncomfortable, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches (do not give aspirin to children or teens as it may cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome).
  • Encourage dressing in layers, since the flu often makes a person cold one minute and hot the next (wearing layers — like a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and robe — makes it easy to add or remove clothes as needed).

Call the Doctor If Your Child:

  • Has flu symptoms
  • Has a high fever, or fever with a rash
  • Has trouble breathing or rapid breathing
  • Has bluish skin color
  • Is not drinking enough fluids
  • Seems very sleepy or listless
  • Seems confused
  • Has flu symptoms that get better, but then get worse

For more information or other articles relating to colds and the flu, visit KidsHealth’s Online Flu Center