Cold and Flu

Unlike some other infections, when the flu is uncomplicated, it doesn’t usually require medical treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine (if symptoms are reported within 48 hours of onset), but these usually only shorten the course of the infection by just 1 or 2 days, and most times are only used when a child is at risk for serious complications.

Here’s how to help your child feel better in the meantime:

  • Offer plenty of fluids (fever, which can be associated with the flu, can lead to dehydration). If your child is tired of drinking plain water, try ice pops, icy drinks mixed in a blender, and soft fruits (like melons or grapes) to maintain hydration.
  • Encourage your child to rest in bed or on the couch, with a supply of magazines, books, quiet music, and perhaps a favorite movie.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and pains (but do not give aspirin unless your doctor directs you to do so).
  • Dress your child in layers so you can add and remove layers during bouts of chills or fever.
  • Ask a close relative or faraway friend to call and help lift your child’s spirits.
  • Take care of yourself and the other people in your family! If you haven’t done so, ask your doctor whether you (and other family members) should get a flu shot. Also, wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially after picking up used tissues.

If your doctor recommends a prescription medicine to ease symptoms, be sure to call before you go to the pharmacy. Because the flu can strongly affect many areas of the United States, many pharmacies may have difficulty keeping certain medicines in stock

With no cure in sight for the cold or the flu, current treatments can at best bring symptom relief or shorten the duration of those symptoms. You can take one of a variety of medications that may help relieve your symptoms. You can take the natural approach read below for some home remedies that may help you feel better along the way.

No. 1: Blow Your Nose Often — and the Right Way

It’s important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can cause an earache. The best way to blow your nose: Press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other. Wash your hands after blowing your nose.

No. 2: Stay Rested

Resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle. This battle taxes the body. So give it a little help by lying down under a blanket.

No. 3: Gargle

Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Try a teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water, four times daily. To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle — such as tea that contains tannin — to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey, popular in folk medicine. Steep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling. Honey should never be given to children less than 1 year old.

No. 4: Drink Hot Liquids

Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, help prevent dehydration, and can soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat.

No. 5: Take a Steamy Shower

Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and relax you. If you’re dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.

No. 6: Use a Salve Under Your Nose

A small dab of mentholated salve under your nose can open breathing passages and help soothe the irritated skin at the base of the nose. Menthol, eucalyptus and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw.

No. 7: Apply Hot or Cold Packs Around Your Congested Sinuses

Either temperature may help you feel more comfortable. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a drugstore. Or make your own. Take a damp washcloth and heat it for 55 seconds in a microwave (test the temperature first to make sure it’s right for you.) Or take a small bag of frozen peas to use as a cold pack.