It’s the time of year for family celebrations, neighborhood get togethers and school parties – along with runny noses, sneezes and coughs. Happy holidays!
As December begins, you may feel as if your toddler is never really fully healthy, and that may not be as far-fetched as you think. The average child under age 3 catches about six to eight colds every year. Since some colds can last two weeks, your child could be sneezing for 12 to 16 weeks – that’s 3 to 4 months, more than the entire winter season!
Preventing colds in young children is difficult. When noses or eyes run, they touch them with their hands, and then touch toys, clothing, doorknobs – just about everything – spreading the virus, which can live for 30 minutes, ready to infect the next person.
So what can help?
Wash those hands!
Make sure your child uses plain soap and warm water (not antibacterial soap), and washes for at least 30 seconds. Frequent use of an alcohol-based sanitizer such as Purell is also very effective.
Cover your mouth!
Sneezes travel at 100 m.p.h. (yes!) and can spray bacteria far and wide. Teach your child to grab a tissue when she feels a cough or sneeze coming, to sneeze or cough completely into the tissue, throw the tissue away and then thoroughly wash her hands.
No time to grab a tissue? Don’t use your hands! Sneeze completely into your elbow.
Wipe that nose!
Parents, keep ultra soft tissue or soothing wipes (no alcohol) at the ready and monitor your child vigilantly. Gently and thoroughly clean away mucus immediately and wash your hands after you’ve tossed the tissue into the garbage.
We know it can be difficult to avoid Aunt Marge’s trademark sloppy kisses, but when you make it clear your child is infectious, she should back off quickly. While the cold virus is not easily transmitted unless eyes or noses make contact, other illnesses such as strep throat are. Your child’s resistant to more dangerous bacteria is lower when he has a cold. TIP: Put a sticker on your child’s shirt that says “I’ve got a cold. No kisses, please!”
Despite all your precautions, your child will probably still contract a cold. While there really is no cure for the common cold, there are things you can do to ease her discomfort. Do not give your child aspirin or any medication that contains aspirin. Push liquids, in the form of water, chicken broth or herbal tea. Put a few drops of over-the-counter saline solution in your child’s nose and then suction out the mucus with a bulb syringe. Run a cool-mist humidifier near your child’s bed while she sleeps. And let her sleep as much as possible.
If you’re considering giving your child an antihistamine or decongestant, call Alzein Pediatric Associates at 708-424-7600 and ask if that is appropriate for your child’s age, weight and overall health. If your child’s cold is accompanied by a fever, call out office or visit www.alzeinpeds.com and click “Book An Appointment” in the yellow box to schedule a sick child appointment.
The good news is that contracting frequent colds as a toddler will benefit your child as he grows. Kids who seem to contract many colds when little show a resistant to developing asthma and by the time he’s a teen, your child will typically suffer from only one or two colds each year.