Best ways to treat a cold

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS -

Now you’ve got a youngster, you’re prob­a­bly very fa­mil­iar with a cer­tain sound: aaaa-tishoo! “Colds are re­ally com­mon vi­ral in­fec­tions in un­der-threes,” says pae­di­a­tri­cian Dr Katie Roger­son. “At this age, young­sters are still build­ing up their im­mune sys­tem, so they catch more colds than older chil­dren.” And if you feel like it takes ages for your lit­tle one to fight that cold off, you’re not wrong: “While older peo­ple tend to shake off colds in about a week, it takes up to 14 days for lit­tle ones to stop sneez­ing,” adds Katie. The good news is that ev­ery cold your child catches kick-starts his im­mune sys­tem and helps to build it up. So, while colds might be an­noy­ing right now, they mean that by the time your lit­tle one starts school, he’ll be able to fight off lots of the germs that come his way. “And, in the mean­time, there are plenty of sim­ple things you can do to keep your youngster com­fort­able – even when he’s stream­ing snot!” says Katie.

Pri­ori­tise hy­dra­tion

One of the ways that your youngster’s body fights off the in­fec­tion is to keep its soft tis­sues healthy by mak­ing them extra moist. This means his body is us­ing lots of liq­uid, so it re­ally helps if you can keep him well­hy­drated when he has a cold. And that can be tricky, be­cause a blocked nose makes drink­ing milk ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. “You may find that your baby wants to feed more of­ten, but only has a lit­tle bit at ev­ery feed,” say Katie. “Ba­bies breathe through their nose so, if he’s try­ing to feed when he’s bunged up, it can be hard. If you’re breast­feed­ing, your lit­tle one may pull away much

more than nor­mal and then want to re-at­tach. If you’re bot­tle-feed­ing, make sure your baby is in a po­si­tion in which he can pull away from the bot­tle when­ever he needs to.” All this pop­ping on and off your boob or the bot­tle can mean he swal­lows more air that usual, so spend plenty of time wind­ing him af­ter­wards – or dur­ing, when he’s hav­ing a mid-feed break to get his breath back. Your lit­tle one might also find the sen­sa­tion of swal­low­ing when he’s got a blocked nose an un­set­tling ex­pe­ri­ence. Try hold­ing your nose and swal­low­ing now: it’s odd! So you’ll need to be pa­tient while he deals with this, too. It will also help your youngster if you feed him in a slightly more upright po­si­tion, so he doesn’t get any ex­cess snot run­ning into his mouth.

Re­lax the food rules

“An older child who’s been weaned may go off his food for a cou­ple of days when he has a cold,” says Katie. “But that’s not a prob­lem – as long as he has plenty to drink. Just of­fer him small amounts of food he might fancy, and don’t get stressed if he doesn’t eat much.”

Tilt his cot

A baby with a cold in the day­time is one thing, but at night­time it’s a whole dif­fer­ent ball game! The prob­lem is that when you lay your baby on his back to sleep, the snot runs down into his mouth or throat rather than his nose.

“Cold viruses are around all year,’ says Katie, ‘but we tend to be most af­fected dur­ing win­ter. Peo­ple stay in more, so we’re closer to­gether and it’s eas­ier for germs to cir­cu­late.”

And, be­cause he’s used to breath­ing through his nose, he’ll find not be­ing able to very dis­con­cert­ing. Tilt­ing his cot or bed slightly at the head end, so his head is higher than his feet, will al­low the snot to come out of his nose. You can buy bed blocks, or fold up a towel and put it un­der two legs to cre­ate a slight in­cline, but do check the cot is sta­ble. If you’re out and about, have the buggy at a slight tilt, rather than laid flat. Dis­turbed sleep can mean your baby quickly be­comes over­tired, which makes it more dif­fi­cult for him to drift off into the Land of Nod. Let­ting him nap in an upright sling, where the mo­tion of you walk­ing will help him to snooze, can break this vis­cous cir­cle and make all the dif­fer­ence.

Hi­ber­nate for two days

Snot­ti­ness can last for days, but it’s usu­ally only in the first two or three days of a cold, when your lit­tle one’s body is work­ing hard to fight off the in­fec­tion, that he’ll feel re­ally grotty. Th­ese are the days to stay in, stay warm and stay quiet. “Dur­ing th­ese two days, the im­por­tant thing is to keep your child as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble and for him to get plenty of rest,” says Katie. “When he’s alert, try some gen­tle dis­trac­tions to keep his mind off his cold, such as singing to him, hav­ing a cud­dle and look­ing through a pic­ture book to­gether.” And af­ter the first three days, al­though your baby may still be snotty, he prob­a­bly feels OK again, so it’s fine to get out and about.

Pro­tect his nose

Now, you might be curs­ing that snot, but it is do­ing an im­por­tant job: keep­ing germs and de­bris out of your youngster’s lungs. But your lit­tle one will in­evitably get a crusty nose, which can be­come sore. “First thing in the morn­ing, dip a flan­nel into some warm wa­ter and give your baby’s nose a gen­tle clean to re­duce the crusti­ness and loosen up the mu­cus,” says Katie. “Then wash the flan­nel!” Once the skin is dry, dab on a lit­tle non-fra­granced mois­tur­is­ing cream.

Clean his eyes

Some cold viruses can cause wa­tery eyes, or con­junc­tivi­tis. “You’ll need some cool boiled wa­ter and a packet of new cot­ton pads,” says Katie. “Dip a pad in the cooled wa­ter, squeeze the ex­cess wa­ter out, then wipe it once across the eye, then bin it. If you want to wipe the eye again, use a fresh cot­ton pad each time.” And see your GP too: while con­junc­tivi­tis caused by a virus isn’t nor­mally problematic, other forms can be, so it’s good to have those red eyes checked out to be sure.

Be med­i­ca­tion-wise

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines con­tain in­gre­di­ents such as nasal de­con­ges­tant and an­ti­his­tamines, which can cause ad­verse ef­fects in chil­dren. “If your child is aged un­der six, don’t use them,” says Katie. Age-ap­pro­pri­ate parac­eta­mol or ibupro­fen won’t have any im­pact on the cold virus, but may well help your baby feel more com­fort­able.

Dr Katie Roger­son is a pae­di­a­tri­cian and spokesper­son for the Royal Col­lege of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health

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