I hear it just about everywhere I go. People telling me that either they’ve just got over a bad cold or their child has. Most parents I know pick up a cold from their child who brings it home after catching it from another child at school. That’s how these things go… you have it, I have it, we all have it. And yes, I just got over a bad cold.
One of the ways you can help your child recover a little faster from a cold is to make sure he or she has plenty of fluids. Fluids can prevent dehydration and thin mucus, helping to unclog a stuffy nose.
What fluids will help? Good choices are:
- Water. Water is the easiest fluid to offer a sick child. Bottled or tap water is fine.
- Fruit juices. Fruit juice is also a good choice when your child isn’t feeling well, but remember that some juices can be too acidic on an upset tummy and a little harsh on a sore throat. It’s probably best to hold off on citric juices like orange and pineapple till your little one is well. Apple or grape juice may be more soothing. If your child is dehydrated, get an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte or Infalyte instead. Fruit juice doesn’t have the right mix of sugar and salts to treat dehydration.
- Decaffeinated tea. Tea is a good choice when your child has a sore throat. A warm cup of tea with a little honey is comforting to a sore throat and can help ease coughing. If you add honey make sure that your child is over 1 year old.
- Milk. Many people believe that milk can “sour the stomach” when your=’re sick. Not true. Milk does not cause a sour stomach or mucus build-up. In fact, the protein, calories, and fat in milk can help keep up your sick child's strength.
Are there fluids your child should avoid? Caffeinated drinks never good for a child whether they or sick or not. Sugary drinks and sodas are not a first choice, but if that’s all your sick child will drink, it may be ok to make an exception for now – but encourage your child to try one of the alternatives listed above first.
Sometimes being sick and achy can make your appetite for food and drink go away. If that happens you’ll have to get creative. Popsicles are a good alternative to a glass of juice or water. Either make or buy popsicles with real fruit juice instead of sugar water. Use a cookie cutter to make fun gelatin shapes. And then there is the tried and true chicken soup. Some studies also show that chicken soup -- your grandmother's home remedy -- really may fight inflammation and help with colds.
How much fluid does your child need? It really depends on his or her weight and age.
Some experts say that children over age 1 need as many as 4 to 5 cups of fluid a day –with a combination of both drinks and foods. If your child is older or weighs more, she will need more. Also, a dehydrated child will need more fluid. Ask your doctor for advice ideally before your child is sick so you can be prepared.
Dehydration can be a serious side effect from being ill. Some indications that your child may be dehydrated are:
- Not playing as much as usual.
- Not urinating as much as usual.
- Dry mouth.
- Crying without tears.
- Sleepiness or listlessness.
- Fussiness or crying more than usual.
We are in the middle of the flu and cold season, so there’s a good possibility that your child may catch a bug. If you suspect he or she is dehydrated contact your pediatrician or general practitioner to see what treatment is recommended. Otherwise, a glass of fruit juice, water, or a cup of warm tea make just be what the doctor ordered.