Though many of us would like to be living in an endless summer, the brutal reality is that our long sunny days are rapidly drawing to a close. The upside to that is that the budget won't have to include gallons of sunscreen to keep us from shriveling up like a sun-dried tomato. It does, however, mean that we will soon find ourselves once again in a season of sick parents caring for sick kids who are sick of being sick. Somehow though, in the darkest hours of the night, when our child is throwing up all over the place and we can barely see straight, the miracle of being a parent finds a way for us to care for our baby no matter how sick we may be ourselves.
Fortunately, vomiting illnesses aren't quite as common as the "common cold." A fitting title for such an irritating annoyance, for surely everyone knows that all too familiar feeling of the nose running onto the upper lip and no tissue to be found. Haven't we all lain in bed all night, rolling back and forth trying to breath through the "good" nostril? Even worse than any of it, though, is seeing your child with a red, stuffy nose, watery eyes and looking absolutely helpless.
Over-the-counter cold medicines are not recommended for children under six years old due to serious health risks, but that doesn't mean that we can't do something to help our precious little ones. Here are a few things you can do at home to help relieve his or her congestion, as well as prevent any more serious complications from the "common cold."
Hydration: Make sure your child is taking in plenty of fluids. Often times when a child is sick they don't feel like eating. Not a big deal. However, it's very important that they continue to drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a serious danger and can happen very quickly in kids. The increase in fluids will also help to thin the mucus, allowing easier drainage and clearing of airways.
Elevation: Try raising the head of the child's bed. This helps keep the airways clear while he is sleeping and prevents mucus from collecting and "pooling" in the sinuses. This will also help prevent secondary ear infections by decreasing fluid and pressure in the sinus and Eustachian tubes.
Humidification: Run a water humidifier in the bedroom where your child sleeps. This will again help to thin nasal secretions and open the airways to allow better breathing. Alternatively, if you don't have a humidifier, for the same effect you can let her breathe the steam from a hot shower.
Saline Solution: Use several drops of a saline water solution in each nostril to loosen the mucus, then use a bulb syringe to clear the airways. This solution can be purchased over-the-counter or you can easily make it at home by boiling 8 ounces of water with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Be sure to let it cool before using! Babies tend to not enjoy this technique of "vacuuming their nose" with a bulb syringe, but it is very effective and doesn't hurt at all.
Cold season can be frustrating, especially in a household with young children. These simple measures at home can help give comfort to a sick child, and may help prevent more serious illness like pneumonia, ear infections, etc. Call your doctor for symptoms of fever, breathing difficulties, painful cry, decrease in normal wet diapers, or other concerns, as you may be dealing with more that just a "common cold."