We've entered the cold and flu season, and everywhere you look, there are sniffling babies and tiny tots. October to December is the time when flare-ups are common, as temperatures get cooler.
While many grandmothers believe that children grow up with colds, and that a sniffle here and a sneeze there is a normal part of childhood, this doesn't always have to be the case. Sometimes it's just a matter of proper hygiene habits -- plain soap and water -- and then making sure that if the child does get sick, she does not spread the infection to the others at home or at daycare.
Colds are caused by viruses, which are spread by droplets. So the cold becomes contagious when kids sneeze, cough and share toys, spreading the virus around.
If you can, doctors advise that you take the child out of the daycare setting once she gets a cold.
Otherwise, the parent should make sure that there are enough caregivers to children in the daycare setting and that they practise adequate handwashing especially after cleaning secretions.
At home, sibling-to-sibling, face-to-face contact should be minimised and the children shouldn't share food and drinks until the cold runs its course.
Of course, it's also important that parents know when to stop the home remedies and consult a physician, as well as how to identify the different symptoms that may seem like the common cold.
Here are the distinctions between a cold, the flu, and an allergy:
Cold: Runny nose with clear mucus that may thicken and turn grey, yellow or green over a week. It comes with a cough or a low-grade fever.
Flu: More likely to come on abruptly, accompanied by diarrhoea or vomiting.
Allergy: Itchy, watery eyes and nose, sneezing attacks and itchy skin that lasts for weeks or months.
* Most colds come with fever on the first or second day. If this persists you should take the child to the doctor.
* Note that for newborns, a simple cold can quickly develop into a more serious illness.
* No medicine will make the virus go away faster. Medicines just help your baby feel better and prevent the infection from getting worse.
When mommy has to blow
Since most children can't get the nose-blowing thing down until age four or so, mummy can tip baby's head back and squeeze over-the-counter saline (salt water) drops into his nostrils to loosen up the mucus. Then suction out the liquid and mucus a few minutes later with a rubber bulb syringe. Some moms also use their mouths to blow for baby.
Mom can also apply Vaseline to the outside of baby's nostrils to reduce irritation and use a humidifier or a cool-mist vaporiser to moisten the air in the baby's room. Add a few drops of menthol, eucalyptus, or pine oil to the vaporiser or bath to help baby feel less congested.
Call the doctor:
* If Baby doesn't improve after five to seven days or if the cold symptoms last more than two weeks.
* If the baby's cough worsens or if she is wheezing or gasping. This could be pneumonia.
* If she cries when sucking during a feeding, or pulls and rubs her ear. This could be a sign of an ear infection.