Beating the winter bugs

cold and flu

It’s that time of year againג€¦ Temperatures are dropping, central heating systems are clanking into action and we’re all ripe for catching a few nasties.

Of course, as adults we’re well versed in warding off a cold. We don’t really think twice about popping a few pills or sipping a decongestant drink, wrapping up warm, running a long hot bath and generally feeling sorry for ourselves. But for kids it’s a completely different experience.

Babies and very little children often don’t have the verbal skills to tell us how they’re feeling, so the first sign that there’s anything wrong may be crankiness or listlessness. If you suspect your child isn’t feeling his usual perky self, one of the best ways to tell if there’s something wrong is to take his temperature. As a rule, a temperature of over 37.5!°C is classed as a ג€˜fever’ and you should consult a doctor, especially if it’s a baby under the age of three months.

Other symptoms to watch out for at this time of year include:

ג€¢ Coughing and wheezing
ג€¢ Stuffy noses and sneezing
ג€¢ Rashes
ג€¢ Sleepiness or irritability
ג€¢ Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea

Unfortunately, when it comes to the usual winter bugs, which generally consist of coughs, colds and the much-detested sick bug, there’s very little you can do to prevent your child from catching it. The average baby catches between four to ten colds during his first year of life, and at this stage it’s all about building up his immune system. As much as you want to wrap him in cotton wool and hide him away from all potential germ-spreaders, it really isn’t practical if you’re both to enjoy any type of a social life at all.

Some parents swear by giving their children multivitamin tablets or lozenges each day to help boost their immune system. These are widely available over the counter and come in a variety of fruity flavours. This should be in addition to providing enough natural Vitamin C in your child’s daily diet. Foods rich in Vitamin C include:

ג€¢ Citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, satsumas, tangerines etc.)
ג€¢ Kiwi fruits
ג€¢ Strawberries
ג€¢ Pineapple
ג€¢ Fortified fruit juice
ג€¢ Peppers
ג€¢ Broccoli
ג€¢ Cauliflower

Exercise a modicum of caution when you have the option of your child mingling with other sick children or not. All schools and pre-schools should have a 48-hour policy of keeping children at home after their last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea. Make sure you observe this, and if you’re aware that little Jonny wasn’t feeling too pretty last night, it might not be the best idea to pursue that lunchtime playdate today.

There’s very little you can do to treat winter tummy bugs ג€“ unfortunately they have to work their way out of your child’s system. Stick to very plain foods (dry toast or crackers for example) and boiled water for younger children until he starts to feel better. Provide plenty of bed rest, painkillers (such as infant paracetamol or ibuprofen) if necessary, and general TLC.

Coughs and colds may be relieved by the steam of a hot bath, sore throats might be soothed by a warm milky drink, and fever can be brought down by keeping your child cool with less clothing, occasional cold wipe-downs with a flannel, and, again, infant paracetamol.

Above all your child needs to be reassured that he will feel better soon, so give plenty of cuddles (although no kisses as you don’t want to exchange the germs in saliva!) and sympathy. Good luck!

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