Sick Kids 101—Flu Watch
Who among us hasn’t taken on the role of doctor, nurse, or teacher during a bout with illness? One of the hardest things we deal with as parents is caring for a sick child. Here is a quick list of helping hacks to make both you and your little ones feel better.
Know the difference between a cold and the flu. The flu is more serious and can have significant symptoms to manage. Cold symptoms are usually milder and don’t last as long, on average 7-10 days, with symptoms peaking on days 1-3. Those sniffles, coughs, sneezes, and congestion are usually on their way out the door before you know it—although it takes patience. But what if it’s actually the flu? Well, that’s different.
The flu will exhibit the following symptoms:
- A sudden fever
- Body aches
- Chills and shakes
- A dry cough and sore throat
- Extreme fatigue and lethargy
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
If the fever persists for 3-4 days or if your child has trouble breathing, persistent coughing, or ear pain, you will want to take them in to see the doctor or schedule a virtual visit.
If your child is tired and wants to nap, allow them to rest. Create a space that is quiet and comfortable. Prop them up with pillows to ease a cough. Use a humidifier to deal with respiratory symptoms. Drop essential oils into your humidifier basin to calm your kiddo—lavender in particular will help ease their anxiety. If you are not using a humidifier, spritz their pillows or sheets with lavender. I grew up with Vick’s Vapor Rub, so I was thrilled to discover Vick’s Vapor Steam cough suppressant additive for vaporizers. For about $9.00 your kiddo should feel immediate relief for a nagging cough—hooray!
Watch for dehydration. Make sure your kiddos are producing tears when crying. Look for dry lips, sunken features, decreased activity, and urinating less than 3-4 times in 24 hours. Monitor and push fluids if you see any of these signs with your child. Water is great—but might not be as fun to drink as something with flavor. Use flavored waters and add fresh fruit slices to a drink bottle to add color and nutrition. Stay away from sugary drinks—chill a jar of Pedialyte or bottle of Gatorade to keep them hydrated. Whip up a smoothie with flat, clear soda and some fresh fruit.
Popsicles are also great for keeping your kids hydrated and happy. I like the Outshine brand as they are low sugar and come in a variety of flavors that feature fresh fruit like coconut, lime, watermelon, strawberry, cherry, tangerine, lemon, mango, grape, and more.
Freeze orange slices for kids with a sore throat—the vitamin C will help fight the cold and the icy fruit will feel good going down.
Cuddle up. Nothing is more calming than a cuddle with loved ones—and that includes pets too. Warm a blanket in the dryer before tucking your babies in for a nap.
Rest when they rest. This is part two of the cuddle strategy. As a caregiver, you might be a little worn down too. Snuggle up and snooze with your child.
Stock up on quiet toys and favorite movies. Read books, pull out coloring pages, and queue up a soothing movie. Favorite movies provide comfort because they know the story and how it ends.
Talk about meds. Don’t just spring medication on them. Let them know that the medicine will make them feel better—just like magic. Don’t belabor the process and have it ready to go. Most children’s medications are created to be palatable and easy to administer, so do your best to make it fun. Promise a favored activity post-dosage and you should be able to get them to take their meds without a fuss.
A word about Covid-19 and variants. Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease expert at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, recommends looking for the following signs that may indicate your child’s illness is beyond the cold and flu:
- Labored breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
If your child is experiencing any of these issues, it’s best to take them in to urgent care for an examination.