Cold and Flu in Children: How To Treat Them Properly?

Being a parent can be considered the most difficult task, considering that no one teaches you how to be a parent, but you are rather self-taught for this “profession.”  Especially when talking about the first child, the little ones have the tendency of transforming any change in the mood of the little one in a real chaos.

Cold and Flu in Children

Every parent often confronts episodes of cold and flu that repeat themselves. Fever, stuffy nose and pains are only a few of the symptoms that can be noticed to the little one. Also, they interfere with the child`s sleep and appetite.

Both cold and flu constitute an integral part of cold respiratory infections that are quite common. Although the triggering factors are represented by viruses, they are 2 different medical conditions, which will mean they`ll have different manifestations and treatment.

Colds are, actually, superior respiratory infections caused by different strains of viruses. They have a high incidence, because they are transmitted by air through coughing and sneezing, releasing the virus into the environment. Babies are the ones who are most exposed to common colds, because their immune system functions only in 60% from its capacity. It should be kept in mind that these colds have mild clinical shapes and aspects and, generally, they don`t pose issues. In the first 2 to 3 years of life, the little one can catch a cold for 8 to 10 times. But don`t be impatient! This is normal, because the little one doesn`t have a mature immune system.

Cold or Flu?

Cold or flu have lots common characteristics, both of them being the product of viruses (so, they don`t require antibiotics), both of them manifesting by coughing, nasal discharge, sore throat, and both of them requiring home isolation.

Cold is more frequent caused by rhinoviruses, while flu is caused by influenza viruses. Flu occurs especially in the months of autumn and winter, while cold can install itself in any period of the year, but is more common in the cold season.

Flu, also known as influenza, differs itself by cold through severity and the association of some generally signs: high fever (which last between 3 and 5 days), sometimes chills, tiredness, muscle pains, headache. Influenza can be complicate itself and lead to pneumonia.

A home-grown child develops 3 to 5 episodes of cold per year, while a child that frequents a community contracts 6 to 8 colds during a year, most of these episodes during the winter season.

For a non-qualified person, it can be a real challenge to make the difference between the 2 types of medical conditions. Here`s a simple way of making the difference between cold and flu:

Muscle pains Mild Common, violent
Chest pains Mild-moderate Common, sometimes violent
Headache Rare Common
Exhaustion Mild Strong, precedes the disease
Dizziness, weakness Mild Common and lasting, sometimes persists for 5 to 7 days
Cough Common Common, strong
Diarrhea and vomiting Absent and very rare Present, strong
Sneezing Common Occasional
Stuffy nose Common Occasional
Sore throat Common Common
Fever Low (<38.5ºC) High (>38.5ºC)
Chills Absent/mild Common, violent
Changes in appetite Mild low Inappetent child
Changes in sleep Rare Constant


Signs improve in around 10 days. However, in some children, they may persist up to 2 weeks. Children who are integrated in the community (nurseries, kindergarten, school) are more exposed to more episodes of viral infection on a yearly basis.

Antitermic or Antibiotic?

Flu can be prevented by vaccination. Because flu occurs mostly in the cold season, the flu vaccine needs to be given in the autumn season. – Find out more!

For cold and flu treatment, paracetamol and ibuprofen is used, medications that have antitermic (they combat fever), anti-inflammatory (they combat inflammation) effects and improve the general condition of the child. Until talking to a doctor, parents can administer these medications on their own, which is released without a medical prescription.

The dose of ibuprofen is of 10 mg/kg/doze, which can be repeated if needed after 8 hours. The dose of paracetamol is of 10 – 15 mg/kg/dose, which can be repeated after 6 hours.

As cold and flu are products of viruses, you shouldn`t administer antibiotics, as they aren`t effective in a viral infection.

Antibiotics are only recommended by the doctor, only in the case of bacterial complications that include flu or cold, acute otitis or complications that involve pneumonia.

“Home made” Treatments for Colds

If your child gets a cold, all that you can do is to remove the source of discomfort than “heal” the illness. – Find out more!

Here`s a few measures that you can take for your little one to feel better and recover faster:

  • Chicken soup is the first thing you should try when it comes to home remedies against colds. So, offer your child chicken soup, because is an easy food with nutritional properties, and it`s very tasty.
  • Hot shower can do wonders when your little one catches a cold, because the steam helps decongest his airways. However, make sure your little one isn`t asthmatic, because changing the level of humidity might create a bronchial spasm.
  • Massaging his chest with mentholated creams helps your sick child to breathe more easily and cough less. Massage with alcohol isn`t recommended anymore, because the vapors may harm the child.
  • Make sure that during this state convalescence, the child consumes lots of liquids as, soups, fruit juices, water and tea.

How Should Flu Be Treated Properly?

You can use both “home-made” remedies as well as medications released without medical prescription against signs of flu. Don`t forget that antibiotics are ineffective in treating flu, being useful in treating bacterial infections.

The basic measures for combating and relieving symptoms of flu include: consumption of liquids, using ibuprofen to reduce pains and diminish fever and rest.

Don`t give aspirin to your children, if they have signs similar to flu, and don`t give cough drugs to the little ones if they are under 4 years, without consulting your doctor.

Generally speaking, antiviral drugs can be administered to children over 1 year to prevent and treat symptoms of flu.

In certain cases, antiviral medications can be used to also prevent infections due to flu. These medications block the replication of the flu virus, therefore preventing its spread.

In the case of healthy children, but who present an increased risk of getting the flu virus, antiviral drugs can shorten the flu period and reduce the severity of the signs. – Learn about this!

Some complications of flu in children can include infections of sinuses, pneumonia and ear infections. Call your doctor if your children have fever for more than 2 or 3 days, have breathing issues, feel ear pains and cough persistently.

Children that are smaller than 2 years are prone to be hospitalized due to some complications that involve flu.

Image courtesy of health.usnews.com

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