Kids' Cold Care and Comfort
Your child's body needs its strength to fight off a cold virus, so make sure kids get plenty of sleep, or at least lots of quiet time in bed or on the couch. If your child becomes restless, keep her occupied with books, coloring pages, music, or a favorite movie or DVD.
The old adage is partially right. Experts agree you should keep your kids well nourished while they have a cold. But don't try to "starve a fever"! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests offering your kids frequent small meals and snacks to help them keep up their strength—even though your child may not have much of an appetite while she's sick with a cold.
Doctors typically recommend serving up plenty of fluids when kids are sick with a cold. Part of the reason, the AAP points out, is that when children's noses are stuffy, they breathe through their mouths, causing their mouths and their throats to get dry, which is uncomfortable and speeds dehydration. The American Lung Association suggests "Eight glasses of water and/or juice per day. ... This will help keep the lining of the nose and throat from drying out, so that mucus remains moist and easy to clear from the nose." A cool-mist humidifier placed in the child's room during a bout with a cold will also help keep your kid's sinuses moist.
Kids with colds may experience a low-grade fever of 102°F or less. That's an indication that the body is fighting the cold virus. Unfortunately, it's often accompanied by an achy, uncomfortable feeling that can make your kid cranky. Experts disagree on when parents should reach for the ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat those symptoms, so it's worth checking with your child's doctor if you're unsure. The Mayo Clinic suggests parents "be especially careful when giving acetaminophen to children because the dosing guidelines can be confusing."
Recently an FDA advisory committee recommended that over-the-counter cough medicines not be used for kids under 6 years old. And the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) does not recommend the use of over-the-counter cough medicines in children under age 15. The reason they cite is that these medicines haven't been sufficiently proven to be effective and that the potential benefits are outweighed by possible side effects and by the risk of accidental overdosing.
Of course, parents should call their child's pediatrician whenever they have concerns, but the AAP specifically advises parents to call the pediatrician if their child starts to have difficulty breathing, develops an earache or if a child's sore throat worsens. In addition, the Mayo Clinic also recommends calling the doctor if your child exhibits any of the following: