Cold and flu season is in full swing here in Bend and we are seeing many kids in the office with viral illnesses, including the common cold.
I have heard parents say that when a pediatrician tells them that their kids have a cold, the parents hear that the patient has nothing. I tell parents that I never say that their kid has nothing. When kids have a cold, especially young kids, it can be very hard on the family. Kids with a cold don’t sleep as well, they don’t eat or drink as well, and they are generally miserable.
I think the reason parents hear pediatricians say that their kids have nothing is because we don’t have a cure for the common cold. While antibiotics are indicated for bacterial complications of the common cold including ear infections, sinus infections, and pneumonia, antibiotics are not indicated for colds as they are caused by viruses and they simply do not work. Antibiotics can also have side effects so, as pediatricians, we are very careful to prescribe them only when indicated. This can be very frustrating for parents as it can feel like we have little to offer your kiddos when they are sick.
In reality, there are quite a few things we can do for kids with a cold including many more natural remedies. What I typically recommend for my patients is as follows:
My absolute favorite products for the common cold are nasal saline and a good suction device such as the Nose Frida. I like nasal saline as it helps humidify the nose and sometimes, you don’t even need to suction after saline. If you suction too much without saline, you may eventually cause trauma to the nose. The Nose Frida is a revolutionary baby product that is much better than the old bulb syringes. It sounds gross but it uses the parents’ mouth as suction and is an amazing nasal aspirator. For the squeamish out there, don’t worry, there is a filter between the parent and the baby to prevent transmission of viruses. There are a couple of competing brands out there that also do a great job.
For older kids I recommend a nasal saline irrigation system such as the Neti Pot or sinus rinses. Moving fluid and debris through the sinuses can help clean them out and potentially help prevent a sinus infection.
Honey is a natural cough suppressant and in a recent study, was just as good as an over the counter cough suppressant. I typically recommend 1-2 teaspoons of honey mixed in warm water or tea, or offered on a spoon. Unfortunately, because of the risk of infant botulism, you can’t give honey to anyone under one years of age. We generally recommend avoiding cough medicine in children under six as they have not been studied well in kids. And remember, coughing isn’t all bad as it helps to clear mucus and debris from your airways.
Bend is a very dry climate and I typically recommend running a cool mist humidifier in the bedroom when kids are sick. It can help to loosen mucous and make it easier for the body to clear.
Tylenol or ibuprofen can also be used to help kids feel better, especially if they have a fever or at the beginning of an illness. Make sure you give the proper dose based on weight which can be found on our website. Do not give either of these medications to infants less than three months of age and no ibuprofen until after six months of age.
Lastly, occasionally I have a parent bring a child in for a cold and they feel sheepish at the end of the visit saying they wouldn’t have brought them in for “just a cold.” We at BMC Pediatrics are here for our patients and are happy to see any of our patients when they are sick. Parents should never feel that there is a diagnosis we are not happy to see. We also cannot diagnose complications of the common cold over the phone and so checking in with your pediatrician is never a bad idea. Raising children is a journey and, as pediatricians, we are honored to partner with you to help raise healthy children.