Staying Healthy During the Winter Viral Season
What can we do to stay healthy this season? We all know to avoid contact with sick people, but most illnesses are spread by touching surfaces that are contaminated by viruses. Most of us try to cover our mouths with our hands when we cough or sneeze. This catches the virus right in our hands and we easily spread it to door knobs, desktops, and toys. The best way to “capture” a sneeze or cough is right into your elbow. This helps to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently during the day especially after you have touched door knobs, light switches, etc. Try not to put your fingers in your mouth or rub your eyes. Clean the surfaces in your home as soon as someone gets sick
Colds are the most contagious to others in the first 3-4 days of a virus. Staying home when you are sick is being considerate of others and yourself. Rest, take it easy, and drink plenty of fluids. It would be best to have your child sleep in a separate room from other siblings and play with her own set of toys early in an illness. Teach your child to wash his hands frequently especially before eating, and to not put her fingers in her mouth.
Treating Cough and Cold Symptoms without Using Medications
Most colds last 7-14 days. Unfortunately there really is no way to make the virus go away more quickly. Vitamin C, Echinacea, and high dose vitamins have not been shown to boost your immune system and will not help you get better faster. Let’s try to treat your cold symptoms without using much medicine. The FDA has recommended that cough and cold medications not be given to young children and took them off the market because of side effects.
Clear the mucous out of the nose by taking long, hot showers, running a cool mist humidifier (just as effective and safer than steam vaporizer). You will find that the symptoms are not as bad during the day. When your child is upright, the nasal mucous drains more easily. At night, elevate her head and give a cup of water to sip so she can swallow that postnasal drip mucous that causes her to cough. It is better to let the mucous flow. Do not give medications to dry up the nose.
If he wakes with a coughing spell, take him into the bathroom and turn on the shower. The warm mist will sooth the cough. Warm liquids relax the airway and loosen the mucous. Try warm apple juice, warm lemonade, or honey-lemon tea. A teaspoon of pancake syrup or honey tastes great and decreases a postnasal drip cough. (Don’t give honey under 12 months of age.)
Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen help with aches and pains associated with colds. Get plenty of rest and set your expectations that most colds last 7-14 days and there really is no way to make the virus go away more quickly.
Most colds start with fatigue and achiness for a day or two followed by nasal congestion and runny nose. This clear thin runny nose actually has more of a viral load than the thick green mucous that everyone worries about. Colds are the most contagious to others in the first 3-4 days of a virus so it would be best to have your child sleep in a separate room from other siblings and play with her own set of toys early in an illness.
Days 3-7 are the worst days for the cough and yellow-green thick nasal mucous. Frequently this is when many consider using an antibiotic for a possible sinus infection, but we have found that green nasal mucous is normal at this stage of a cold. Clear the sinuses using nasal saline then blow or suction the nose.
Whether or not you get sinus and ear infections depends a lot on how you are built – your anatomy. If the mucous can’t drain out of the sinuses or middle ears because these drainage areas are small or function poorly, the mucous accumulates, allowing a great place for germs to grow. This explains why some people get frequent ear and sinus infections and others easily get over their colds.
Fever helps fight infections.
Fever itself is not harmful, but may cause achiness and a headache. If the fever is not bothering your child, don’t let it bother you. However, in infants under 4 months old, fever can be a sign of serious illness and needs immediate evaluation. Usually a fever of 102 or more is enough to make your child uncomfortable. It is ok to give acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if over 6 months old) for a fever, but keep track of the dose and when you gave it. The height of the fever and whether or not the fever responds to medication does not always indicate how potentially serious an illness is. What is most important is how your child is acting. Will he smile at you? Will he read a book or watch a movie? If you feel your child is getting sicker quickly or is not responding to you normally, or the fever has lasted 2-3 days, please call our office.
Quick Walk-In Clinics
We have developed some concerns with our young patients going to clinics established at pharmacies or other walk-in clinics which don’t specialize in treating children. We feel we should point out that it is very important to keep in mind the level of expertise and training of the person evaluating your child’s illness. For most illnesses you can treat the symptoms and come to see us when the office opens at 7:30 AM or give our office a call if you have concerns about an illness.