A Parent's Guide to Cold Medication

When your child’s under the weather, you probably head to the drugstore to pick up a remedy. But with shelf after shelf filled with over-the-counter medications, the vast selection may be enough to give you a headache. How do you know which one is the right one? We asked the experts for a guide to cold medicine that helps clear up the confusion.

1. First, consider your child’s age. “It’s recommended that you avoid giving oral cold medications to children under the age of 6, unless otherwise directed by a pediatrician,” says Maria Marzella Mantione, an associate clinical professor at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions and a national spokeswoman for the American Pharmacists Association. Some topical medications are OK for use in children 2 years and older, but always check the label for age restrictions and be sure to follow the directions for proper application -- they should not be ingested or applied where they can accidentally enter the nose, mouth or eyes.

For younger kids, soothe their cold symptoms with non-medicinal methods: Encourage plenty of fluids and rest, and run a humidifier to relieve congestion and to moisten dry nasal passages. Mantione also advises using saline drops and an aspirator for a stuffy nose, and a spoonful of honey for cough (but only for children over the age of 1).

2. Next, take note of her symptoms. Don’t automatically reach for that all-in-one remedy. “You should only treat the symptoms that your child is experiencing,” says Mantione. “Giving her unnecessary medication may lead to unpleasant side effects, like nausea or dizziness.” If your little one is suffering from more than one complaint, however, using the appropriate multi-symptom formula is a smart move.

3. Check the active ingredients. Once you’ve pinpointed your child’s symptoms, read the label to ensure that you’re buying the correct medication. This cheat sheet can help you make the right choice; make sure that you follow the age and dosing requirements on the package.

Your child has a: Fever
The box should say: Fever and pain reliever (acetaminophen, ibuprofen).
“Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are safe to use for fever or pain, such as an earache or sore throat, in children who are at least 6 months old,” says Mantione, who also advises checking in with a pediatrician. Steer clear of aspirin, which has been shown to cause Reye syndrome -- a rare but dangerous complication -- in children with the flu or chickenpox.

Your child has a: Dry cough
The box should say: Cough suppressant or antitussive (dextromethorphan) or topical cough relief (camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil).
These types of medications reduce your cough sensitivity by suppressing receptors in the respiratory tract or, for dextromethorphan, in the brain's “cough center.”

Your child has a: Productive cough or chest congestion
The box should say: Expectorant (guaifenesin).
Expectorants thin mucus, which makes it easier to cough up. “A productive cough is good for you, so you don’t want to quiet it with a suppressant,” says Mantione.

Your child has a: Stuffy nose
The box should say: Decongestant (pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine).
This medication works by reducing swelling in the nose. But don’t use it for more than three days in a row, since decongestants can make stuffiness worse with repeated use. You can find pseudoephedrine-based products behind the pharmacy counter; Mantione believes they have fewer side effects.

Your child has a: Runny nose
The box should say: Antihistamine (brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine).
Antihistamines work by blocking histamine, compounds that attach to cells and cause fluid leakage. Most of these are sedating and can cause sleepiness, so they’re best used before bedtime.

4. Consult the pharmacist. If you have any questions or want a little guidance, find the in-store pharmacist, says Mantione. “She can also help you figure out the right dose for your child.”

8 Ways to Soothe a Sick Child

No mom wants her child to feel miserable -- and the common cold can really wipe a kid out! Fortunately, combining a few simple moves with time-tested remedies can help ease your little one’s symptoms. So the next time she starts coughing and sneezing, try these savvy tricks to soothe your sick kid in no time.

1. Push an ice pop. “This frozen treat can help soothe a sore throat, plus provide extra fluid to prevent dehydration,” says Dr. Susan Besser, a family physician in Memphis, Tenn., and a mother of six. Giving your child plenty of liquids will also help thin out mucus, making it easier to cough it up.

2. Choose the right remedy. An over-the-counter medication is one of the best ways to relieve cough and cold; just make sure to check the label for age restrictions. A multi-symptom drug is useful in many cases, but don’t assume that it’s a one-size-fits-all treatment. “If your child isn’t experiencing each of the ailments listed on the box, you’re giving her unnecessary meds,” says Besser. “That may cause uncomfortable side effects, like insomnia or nausea.” She advises matching up your child’s specific symptoms with the medicine you give her.

3. Use an extra pillow. “Elevating a child’s head will keep those nasal secretions flowing forward and out of the nose,” says Dr. Peter I. Liber, a pediatrician in Wheaton, Ill., and a father of four. That can prevent postnasal drip from turning into a cough -- and help her sleep more soundly.

4. Have a cooldown. While waiting for that acetaminophen or ibuprofen to kick in, a cold washcloth or icy drink can provide relief for a feverish child. Skip the cool bath, though: Liber explains that may raise his core temperature -- and actually worsen fever.

5. Soothe with steam. “Adding moisture to the air can help loosen up congestion,” says Besser. Keep a vaporizer or humidifier in your child’s room, and remember to change the water daily to prevent bacteria growth. Or run a hot shower and let her sit in the fogged-up bathroom for up to 15 minutes.

6. Teach good hankie habits. “Clamping your nose with a tissue and blowing forcefully can lead to nosebleeds or even a ruptured eardrum,” cautions Besser. Instruct your child to clear her nose gently. While you’re at it, remind her to toss the tissue in the trash afterwards and wash her hands to avoid spreading germs.

7. Calm with creams. Turns out those mentholated topical ointments and creams your own mom gave you really do work. According to a recent study, sick kids whose parents applied a vapor rub to their chest 30 minutes before bedtime slept better, breathed easier and coughed less throughout the night than those who didn’t. Just make sure to follow the directions on the package, and avoid using in and around the nose.

8. Protect his nose. You can’t always help whether your little guy uses a tissue or his sleeve to wipe his nose. “But you can keep his nostrils from getting red,” says Liber. He suggests applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly beneath his nose and on the outside of his nostrils to keep the skin from becoming chapped.

How to Choose a Safe Day Care

Finding the right day care center requires a balance of many practical issues, including location, cost and hours of operation. And you, of course, also want a nurturing staff. “But bottom line: Your child’s health and safety are what matters the most,” says Patricia Skinner, executive director of the Capital District Child Care Council, a resource and referral agency that serves six counties in New York. “After all, it doesn’t matter how stellar the caregiver’s interactions are if there’s broken glass on the playground,” she says.

Narrow down your choices and find a safe day care for your child by considering these four questions:

1. Is the center licensed (or registered)?
Most states require day care centers to comply with minimum health and safety standards, so your first step is to find out if the facility you’re considering is state-approved. In the state of New York, for instance, freestanding child care centers must be licensed, but those that operate out of a home must be registered. If you opt for an in-home caregiver who looks after one or two kids, many states exempt these individuals from registration or licensing. However, some states do require in-home caregivers to complete a criminal history check or child abuse/neglect screening; others require basic health and safety training. For more information, visit ChildCareAware.org.

2. Is the environment safe, both indoors and out?
Always take a tour of the facility when children are there to look for potential hazards, like heavy objects that kids could pull down on top of themselves. “It’s great to get references, but there’s really no substitute for your own observations,” says Skinner. “You learn so much more when you spend time in a center and observe.” Pay particular attention to the playground and other outside areas, which is where most day care injuries occur. Make sure that kids are never left unattended, even if they’re sleeping. Also ask about the staff-to-child ratio. The younger your child is, the lower the ratio should be. For instance, one caregiver should take care of only two infants. But 4-year-olds do well with a ratio of 1-to-10 (one adult for 10 children).

3. Does the staff follow proper infection control procedures?
Do staffers wash their hands after each diaper change? Is the food preparation area clean and orderly? How often are the communal toys disinfected? (Toys should be disinfected on a daily basis or more often if they’re visibly soiled.) You should also ask if children wash their hands before eating and after using the bathroom, since kids are exposed to most germs by touching surfaces and then putting their fingers in their mouths. Ask caregivers all these questions, but also observe to see if the staff is really doing what they say they do.

4. What are the policies regarding sick children?
Child care providers should have specific criteria that outline when to send a sick child home, and it’s good to know the particulars so you can decide what requirements are important to you. Many centers follow national health and safety guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association (APHA), but some are more stringent.

For example, AAP/APHA guidelines state that a child with a fever (defined as an oral temperature above 101 F, a rectal temperature above 102 F or an armpit temperature above 100 F) who is otherwise acting normally shouldn’t be excluded from child care. However, many centers use fever alone as a reason to send a child home. “The providers can set their own exclusion criteria, and some of them are more restrictive than the guidelines,” says Jean Wiseman, a registered nurse and child care health consultant at the Capital District Child Care Council. “That’s partly because they’ve seen what can happen when an illness that’s not treated properly runs through every child in the program and all the staff too.” So if you worry that a day care center’s stringent rules may one day exclude your child from care when you need it most, it’s likely in everyone’s best interest that sick kids don’t mix with healthy ones.

What to Do if Your Child Is Sick

It’s the scenario every working mother dreads: Your 3-year-old wakes up coughing, sneezing and clearly feeling out of sorts; your husband is out of town on business; you’re due at the office in three hours for an important meeting. When your little one is too sick to go to his regular day care, but not sick enough to for you to justify rescheduling your meeting and using up yet another dwindling vacation day, you may have more options than you realize. Some hospital child-care facilities operate day care programs that welcome mildly ill children and are open to everyone in the community. In addition, some freestanding child care centers offer separate infirmaries for sick kids.

5 Foods to Reduce Allergy and Asthma Symptoms in Kids

By Laura Roe Stevens


Share on email Share on print Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on digg Share on facebook_like More Sharing Services


Parents of children with asthma and allergies are all too familiar with doctor’s offices, doses of steroids, antibiotics, allergy medications and sometimes even the dreaded emergency room visit. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were inexpensive, easy-to-access foods that could help reduce the severity of your children’s allergy symptoms?

While experts warn that there really are no magic foods that ward off asthma and allergies for all children, new research shows that diets that are rich in some foods can make a difference. For instance, a 2007 Spanish study found that children who regularly ate fish and certain vegetables (green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant) had 40 percent fewer allergy and asthma symptoms than kids who rarely ate them. Researchers suggest that the high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nature of the vegetables and fish had a healing effect on the bronchial passageways.

Antioxidant-rich superfoods won’t make a difference in a child’s health if the rest of his diet is poor. So be sure your kids avoid foods filled with excess sugar, preservatives, food coloring and additives, as well as fried foods and too much red meat (which increases inflammation). Encourage your kids to eat the following foods on a regular basis to reduce allergy and asthma symptoms:

1. Salmon
This fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to reduce children’s risk of suffering atopy, or inherited childhood allergies. Your goal is to incorporate 200 grams (about 7 ounces, or two decks of cards) of fish that is rich in omega-3 a week. If your child thinks he doesn’t like salmon, try making it with yummy sauces he likes, such as teriyaki, and serve it over rice. Or mix blueberry all-fruit spread with brown mustard, spread on top of the fish and cover with crushed crackers for a crunch. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

2. Broccoli
This antioxidant-rich veggie is a great option because many kids will actually eat it (especially given the right toppings). Cover it with something tasty, like cream of cheddar soup, to make it more appealing. Broccoli, also known for its cancer-fighting qualities, is a rich source of calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

3. Berries
Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries contain quercetin, a compound believed to have antiallergy and anti-inflammatory properties. Other sources of quercetin include onions, apples, black tea, and some nuts and seeds. Berries and apples are the perfect snack on the go; you can also top a healthy portion of berries with a small scoop of natural sorbet or frozen yogurt for a perfectly sweet sundae.

4. Oranges
The vitamin C in oranges is best known for its cold-fighting powers, but experts say it can also stabilize the cell membrane of mast cells, reducing the histamine release that can cause allergy symptoms. Other sources of vitamin C include kale, bell peppers, cauliflower, papaya and most citrus fruits.

5. Coconut Water or Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides, which are thought to help calm the gastrointestinal tract and ease allergies. Sneak this oil into your child’s diet by cooking with it, or try coconut water juice boxes, which can be found in the health food aisles of most grocery stores.