My four year-old got the flu, and immediately upon returning from the doctor’s, I wiped down every counter surface, light switch and door handle. My husband and I managed to steer clear of this one. But three days after she came down with her fourth cold since September (gee, I love this ‘building up the immune system’ thing) my husband began to feel achy and looked as if he was dragging himself around the house instead of walking. I wanted to scrub down all his surfaces the same way I did with the house (and I don’t mean in a rare moment of foreplay) but that wasn’t going to work.
What’s a mother to do?
First, you’ll want to know what you’re dealing with—distinguish between a cold and flu. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, colds rarely cause a fever in adults (though more common in children), but the flu usually does. In adults, colds are generally annoying, whereas the flu will knock you flat. In a child, it may be hard to tell, since my preschooler can run around like nothing’s the matter when she’s got the flu, and then crumple in dramatic agony over a hangnail. So it’s time to whip out those thermometers, or the motherly hand that just seems to ‘know’ by feel.
If someone has a high fever, with no apparent signs of the flu, it could mean a bacterial infection, and then it’s automatically time to go get professional medical help. WebMd.com offers a nifty, helpful slide show about colds vs. flus, with cool microscopic pictures of what each nasty little germ looks like.
For colds, humidifiers (like these nifty and efficient animal-shaped ones at Target) can help with dry coughs and keep kids (and adults—and we won’t judge if you pick out a nice frog or pink cat for yourself) breathing easily during these cold days of forced-air heat and colds. Homeopathic remedies that your child might actually take include Cold Calm (also comes in adult formula) which kids can just let dissolve under their tongue, or crunch for added fun. Most homeopathic remedies don’t pack a huge punch to an invading virus, but they have few side effects and can make the cold sufferer a little bit more comfortable.
Kids should stay home from school and group activities for at least 24 hours after their fevers have gone down naturally. Please note: that means without the use of Tylenol or other fever-reducers. At our house, we’re big fans of nighttime doses for the first day or so, but it’s really better to be able to see what the body is doing, rather than mask flu or cold symptoms long-term.
In the meantime, I’m trying to keep myself well and trying to look on the bright-side—she’s building up one heck of an immune system… I hope.
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School’s In Session and So Are the Germs