The sniffles, a bug, a common cold—no matter what you call it, being sick is a pain, and seeing your tiny human under the weather is tough on parents. While you may not be able to fully prevent your little one from catching a virus, there are some steps you can take to help your odds and ways to make things easier on your family when you have a child feeling out of sorts.

We talked to Dr. Amna Husain, a board-certified pediatrician at Pure Direct Pediatrics in Malrboro, New Jersey and mom of one, about her tips for making cold and cough season a little easier on her young patients. Read on for her ten tips to survive cold and cough season:

This post is sponsored by Children’s Delsym, the #1 pediatrician recommended children’s 12-hour cough suppressant* as well as the most recommended children’s cough medication by pharmacists.**

The Common Cold Is Very Common

Ermolaev Alexander via Shutterstock

We’ll start with some tough news: your kid will likely get sick. “It is really normal to have a cold. The common cold is caused by a lot of different viruses,” says Dr. Husain. “There’s tons of viruses out there, and it’s very normal for a child to get eight to twelve colds a year.” The good news: The sniffles are usually not something to stress about, and the average cold will last three to seven days—so you don’t have to worry about them being under the weather for too long.

Remember the Basics

You already know the easiest way to prevent illness, and you child probably does too. “It really goes back to the mainstay of things that we’ve heard so commonly like wash your hands and cover your cough,” says Dr. Husain. Remind little ones to wash their hands when they leave the bathroom, before they eat, when they come in from being outside and after they sneeze, to name a few. Now is also a great time to refresh your kid’s memory about coughing and sneezing into their elbow or into a tissue, when possible.

Sanitize Smartly

As a mom herself, Dr. Husain knows the importance of on-the-go options: “Nothing will ever replace soap and water, but hand sanitizer is incredibly convenient.” If you’re using hand sanitizer, Dr. Husain says to look for a sanitizer that is at least seventy percent alcohol, which will be listed on the back of the bottle. It’s also important to use hand sanitizer correctly, which means rubbing it onto your hands until it dries naturally, as opposed to wiping off excess.

Know What to Look For

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Each child and each sickness will look a little different, but there are a few things you’ll want to check no matter what.

Fever: Kids can be sick with or without a fever, but if they are running a temp, Dr. Husain says the main thing to look for is that the fever is going away, either on its own or with proper dosing of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If fever is not going down with the appropriate dosing of antipyretic medications or persists beyond 3 to 5 days, contact their pediatrician.

Hydration: When your little one is sick, there’s a good chance they won’t want to eat. Rather than focusing on appetite, Dr. Husain suggests closely monitoring their hydration. “When your child doesn’t get enough hydrating fluids and, they can get tired, lose energy and even begin to appear sick are much faster,” she says. If you have a young child, Dr. Husain says the number of diapers they put out is a good indicator—three to five wet diapers is ideal. With older kids, checking the color of their urine can let you know if they’re hydrated. 

Energy: Parents know their children’s energy levels. When they’re sick but still playing, it likely means they’re fighting the virus off just fine. But if they’re truly lethargic and having difficulty waking from a nap, that’s when it can become worrisome. "As a pediatrician, that’s something I want to know about," says Dr. Husain. 

This post is sponsored by Children’s Delsym, the #1 pediatrician recommended children’s 12-hour cough suppressant* as well as the most recommended children’s cough medication by pharmacists.**

Check for Retractions

You remember contractions, but do you know about retractions? “If your child is really struggling to get air in, you can see their muscles working,” says Dr. Husain. “We call these retractions.” Retractions can look like their belly popping in and out, the muscles in between their rib cage pulling in and out or their clavicles poking in and out.  If you’re noticing retractions in your kiddo’s breathing, it may be a sign that they’re struggling to get air—and a reason to get in touch with your pediatrician.


Pick the Right Cough Syrup

kornnphoto via Shutterstock

If your kid is old enough, cough syrup can be a game changer on sick days. “I often tell parents you have to look at what’s in cough syrups because there is such a big variety,” says Dr. Husain. “You have to focus in on what you’re trying to treat.” If you’re using a cough syrup, first make sure that you are giving your child medication that is FDA approved for their age. Look for a cough medicine that covers the symptoms you’re trying to treat (cough, runny nose, nighttime relief) and double check the dosing.

Children’s Delsym® provides 12-hour cough relief and multi-symptom treatment just for kids. Children’s Delsym® has a single active ingredient, dextromethorphan, and is free from pain relievers, sulfites and alcohol—which some kids may be sensitive or allergic to. Whether your child has a cough, cold, or chest congestion, Children’s Delsym ® relieves their symptoms and helps little ones feel better. If you’re dealing with more than a cough, Delsym has Cough+ products for both adults and children with daytime and nighttime formulas. Plus, it comes in two flavors: orange and grape. 

Stop the Snot with Saline

No matter how many times they blow their nose, the snot still stays. “Saline helps to clear the nasal passages, which loosens the mucus and helps them to breathe a little easier,” says Dr. Husain. She suggests using saline nasal drops and suctioning or a saline spray after bath time (when steam has helped loosen everything up) or before they go down to sleep to prevent a post-nasal drip that may cause middle-of-the-night coughs.

Cuddles Could Be a Cure

Tomsickova Tatyana via Shutterstock

Sniffles mixed with exhaustion is a recipe for disaster. “If they’re in the safe age group, you can let them sleep near you,” says Dr. Husain. “That way you can keep an eye on them, and you’re able to comfort little ones.” A warm drink can also be your best friend before bed: think warm milk with honey, hot chocolate or tea.

This post is sponsored by Children’s Delsym, the #1 pediatrician recommended children’s 12-hour cough suppressant* as well as the most recommended children’s cough medication by pharmacists.**

Keep It Contained

What’s worse than a sick kid? Multiple sick kids. “The best thing you can do is make sure that your little one who is sick stays to their room, if possible,” says Dr. Husain. She also suggests designating their own bathroom apart from other kids and holding off on sharing toys, utensils and anything else for a few days.

If You’re Concerned, Call Your Pediatrician

As a parent, it’s stressful to wonder if it’s just the sniffles or potentially something more serious. “If you’re considering going to the emergency room or an urgent care, try to talk to your pediatrician before you make a decision go somewhere,” says Dr. Husain. Your pediatrician may be able to help you determine where to go next, if needed, and can help your little one get the care level they need.


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Dr. Syeda Amna Husain

Dr. Amna Husain is a board-certified concierge pediatrician providing quality pediatric care to children of all ages throughout Marlboro, NJ. At her private practice she offers a wide spectrum of services for young children including acute and non-acute sick and well-care visits, physical examinations, minor procedures, and lactation services for mothers.

* Based on the QuintilesIMS ProVoice Survey, 2016
** Based on Pharmacy Times’ OTC Guide 2016-2017

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