Tips for a Healthier Cold and Flu Season

box of tissuesNow that cold and flu season is upon us, your school age kids are likely going to come down with a few sniffles, sneezes, earaches, and upset stomachs.  

Nobody enjoys seeing their little ones feeling sick, so here are a few facts to keep in mind as well as some helpful tips to get them back to the playground in no time…

Here are a few things to remember when illnesses strike.

Viral Illnesses

Most illnesses that children frequently get are due to viruses.  Viruses are easily passed from person to person, most often in children through: 

  • touching each other,
  • sharing toys,
  • not covering their mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing. 

Illnesses such as chickenpox, colds, pinkeye, stomach flu, flu, most sore throats and some ear infections are examples of illnesses caused by viruses.   When groups of children get together, they often come down with the same illnesses around the same time.

It is difficult to avoid certain viral illnesses, as some viruses, such as chicken pox, is contagious before the child ever shows symptoms.  By utilizing the following suggestions, you can reduce the chances of your child becoming ill.  Here are some DO’s and DON’T’s for viral illnesses…

Avoiding the illness

  • DO immunize!  Kids need their immunizations to help their body fight off viruses.  Antibiotics cannot kill viruses, so their bodies have to have the ability to fight off the virus on their own.  Immunizations help their body to develop a resistance to these viruses which can help them to avoid getting them at all or having a much milder illness if they would get it.   Remember, not all kids are vaccinated, so it is that much more important that your children get protection from preventable illnesses!  
  • DO have your kids wash their hands often.  
  • DO wash shared toys often.  
  • DO encourage them not to share drinks and foods with other children
  • DO NOT smoke around children or in your home.  Exposure to second hand smoke can not only cause lung illnesses for kids, but it is also a cause of EAR INFECTIONS!

Treating the illness

  • DO encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids and to get plenty of rest.  Fighting illness is hard work for the body!  
  • DO use saline mists to their noses to help with congestion.  This will help to moisturize dry nasal passages as well as help to thin the mucous, making it easier to expel.  
  • DO treat the symptoms that your child is having using over the counter remedies at the pharmacy.  Such things as cold drinks, throat sprays and age appropriate cold remedies are typically all you need to get through the worst part of a viral illness.  
  • DO ask your provider for what to do for fever.  Not all fevers are a bad thing!  Fevers are the body’s natural way of killing viruses. 
  • DO NOT demand that an antibiotic is prescribed if your provider has determined the illness to be from a virus.  An antibiotic cannot cure a viral illness! When antibiotics are taken needlessly, it contributes to ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE.  This causes antibiotics to be less effective when the time comes that your child really needs them. 
  • DO NOT ever give your child an antibiotic that was not given to him by his provider for THIS illness.   Using “leftover” antibiotics can be very harmful to your child.  Also, giving a child an antibiotic that belonged to another person is extremely dangerous due to the potential for severe allergic reaction. 
  • DO NOT send your child to school or to activities if they have a fever, are vomiting or have diarrhea.  In these times, the child needs their rest and they are also likely contagious to other children.


Bacterial Infections

Some illnesses are, in fact, caused by bacteria.  Call your provider if your child is experiencing the following:  

  • High fever
  • Symptoms lasting longer than ten days
  • Sore throat accompanied by a white coated tongue or “white patches” in their throat
  • Pain in both ears
  • Pain to the touch in their face
  • Cough accompanied by high fever
  • Severe pain in their lower right abdomen
  • Extreme tiredness accompanied by signs of illness

Bacterial infections DO require antibiotics.  By not taking unnecessary antibiotics for viral illnesses, you can help the antibiotics to work to their full capacity if ever the time comes that your child truly needs them.

In Summary

As this is not an all-inclusive list, check with your physician for a complete list and always follow your own physicians’ guidance.  This handout is for informative purposes only and does not replace or eliminate the need for your own providers care.   We all want to keep our children healthy.  By avoiding unnecessary exposure to illness as well as proper treatment, we can all hope to have a healthy cold and flu season! 


by Lori Ridings RN, BSN, FNP Candidate,  a family nurse practitioner student and nursing instructor from Pittsburgh, PA.  A registered nurse for 10 years focusing on obstetrics, pediatrics and emergency nursing, Lori is the mother of four, with children ranging from 21 years to 1 year old.




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