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Mother checks to see if her child's cold is causing a fever

A Parent’s Guide to Your Child's Cold, Cough or Fever this Winter

I got that call again this week. You know the one where the school or daycare says that your child has a cold or fever and has to be picked up. Sick again!! This time of year it seems someone is always sick with something, especially the little ones we send to be with other kids who have not quite mastered personal hygiene or cough and cold etiquette.

So what do we do? We all want our kiddos to feel better fast. It pains us to see them coughing and oozing with snot. Do you give them something for their symptoms?

How to Treat Your Child’s Fever

When we get a fever, it is our body’s way of fighting off some sort of invading organism. We don’t necessarily NEED to treat it with over-the-counter medication unless it is making them uncomfortable. Some things that can be done to bring a temperature down naturally:

  • Strip them down to their diaper/underwear
  • Have them wear very light clothing
  • Place them in a lukewarm tub

If fever is causing your child to be uncomfortable, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given to bring the fever down as well. CHI Health pharmacies stock these items as well as informational reminder cards to assist with accurate dosing for your child.

Note: If your child is younger than 3 months of age and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, you should call your child's healthcare provider immediately.

DO NOT give ibuprofen to children under 6 months of age, unless directed by your provider. DO NOT give your child aspirin due to risk of a fatal disease called Reyes Syndrome.

What to Do for Your Child’s Cold

As adults, we are used to grabbing a cold syrup or tablet over the counter for our runny or stuffy nose or cough. These medicines can pose serious risks for young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends against using them for children younger than 4 years. From age 4 to 6, these medicines should only be used if your child's healthcare provider tells you to. Under 12 years of age, follow package dosing information.

For cough and cold symptoms, it is very important to keep kids well hydrated. Increase their fluid intake, as tolerated, to keep their mucus thinner. It is also important to have them rest.

Tips for a Stuffy Nose

I recommend having your child try to blow it, if possible, and using a saline nasal spray to “wash out” the sinus passages and make the mucus thinner. If they cannot do that, then I recommend using the same saline nasal spray as a drop and using a suction bulb to try to remove the mucus for them. You can place a few drops in each nostril and let it sit for a moment to thin out the thick mucus prior to suctioning.

Treating Your Child’s Cough

I recommend having children drink plenty of water. I also recommend a cool mist humidifier in their room to put that moisture back into the dry winter air. (Make sure to clean the humidifier between uses, because it is a great place for mold to grow). For children over 1 year of age you can give honey (½ to 1 teaspoonful) to help quiet the cough. Do not give honey to children under the age of 1. For children over 5 years of age, a hard candy such as a peppermint or lemon drop can be as effective as a medicated lozenge. Ice-cold foods or beverages can soothe a sore throat. I also recommend gargling with salt water for children over 6 years of age.

Call Your Child’s Provider if:

  • Symptoms continue to get worse
  • Symptom get better and then get worse again
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ear pain
  • Fever over 104º F (over 100.4º in children <3 months)
  • Fever lasting more than 3 days
  • Child who looks or acts very sick

Help Prevent Sickness for Your Child

Once children have been fever free (without any medication) for 24 hours they can return to school.  Remember these tips to help keep the family healthy:

  • Enforce good hand washing for everyone in the house
  • Remind your child to cough or sneeze into his or her upper sleeve or elbow if a tissue is not available
  • Whenever possible, avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold
  • Clean toys and household surfaces
  • Make sure to get enough rest
  • You know your child best; if you feel they are sick, call their provider for guidance

With all this in mind, hopefully we can avoid the next phone call from the least from the nurse’s office. Best wishes for a happy and healthy winter season!

Therese Acamo, PharmD, RPh
Therese Acamo, PharmD, RPh

Therese Acamo, PharmD, RPh is a pharmacist with CHI Health in the 132nd & Center Clinic location. Her favorite part of her job is interacting with patients. She loves the CHI Health Pharmacy environment that allows her to be an integral part in patient care along side the doctors in the clinic. She spends her time outside of work trying to keep up with her four children.

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