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30+ Ways to Outsmart the Flu

Nose Blowing 101

It sounds easy enough, but many younger kids reflexively inhale instead of blowing out. Try these tricks: solo-nostril blow Place your finger over a nostril. Dangle a tissue over the other and ask him to "push" his boogers out. When he blows correctly, he'll see the tissue flutter and understand that the air (and boogers!) are coming out of his nose and making the tissue move. oink it out Give your child a tissue and tell him to make a piggy face by scrunching his nose, then "oink" while blowing hard enough into the tissue that his tummy sucks in.


When To Do It You know the drill -- have your child wash her hands before meals, after using the bathroom, after coughing, sneezing, or nose picking, after touching animals (and cleaning up their waste), and after she's come in from outside. The trick is not to slack off. Ever.
How Long For at least 15 to 20 seconds, or long enough for your child to sing the alphabet or "Happy Birthday" twice.
What Temp Have your kid wash in water that's warm but not too hot. Heat isn't going to kill the bacteria or viruses anyway. Washing removes them, and if your kiddo is comfortable, she's more likely to do it.
How Much Soap Some, but not gobs (skip antibacterial soap -- it may promote resistance). Effective hand washing requires soap and friction, says Dr. Shu, so make sure she rubs her hands together vigorously.

Is It Contagious?

Cough As a general rule, if a child has an occasional cough but his energy is up, he's probably not still sick -- tickles and hacks can linger long after a cold has run its course. Dry coughs from allergies and asthma are also not contagious. But if a child has a persistent cough and is acting tired or irritable, he is more likely to be coming down with something. Cough accompanied by a fever should be considered contagious. A barking cough may be croup or whooping cough, while a loud, loose cough from the chest may indicate bronchitis or pneumonia, all of which may be contagious and should be checked out by a doctor.

Fever A child is sickest the day before a fever begins and for the first three days she is unwell (if it lasts that long). Once a child is under 101°F for 24 hours (without medication), she is much less contagious.

Flu A child is most contagious the day before she comes down with the flu, and she remains contagious until she is under 101°F for 24 hours (without medication). The fever can last from three to seven days.

Runny Nose A runny nose is indicative of a cold, which is most contagious for the first three days. Clear, green, yellow, and even rust-colored boogers are all created equal, and while thick, green ones can mean the cold is settling in, they are no more indicative of contagiousness than the clear kind. If the nose is still running after seven to ten days, it can be a sign of a sinus infection, which needs treatment but is not contagious.

Sore Throat A sore throat with other symptoms, especially fever, is possibly strep or something else contagious, so consult your doctor.

Stomach Bug Kids are most contagious the day before they begin to vomit or develop diarrhea (which is probably why the darn bugs spread at lightning speed) and remain contagious for the first three days (again, if it lasts) or until they have not vomited or had diarrhea for 24 hours.

Symptom Soothers

Hello, inevitable: Despite all your best efforts, your kid got sick. A quick checklist for keeping her comfy:

  • Give her a pain reliever if she has a fever of 101°F or higher. Call your doctor to confirm the dosage.
  • Fill her up with extra fluids Offer water, juice, ice pops, or Pedialyte.
  • If she has chills, wrap her up so she feels warm but not bundled.
  • Prop up her head to allow her nose to clear if she's stuffed up.
  • Help her breathe easier by applying a menthol rub like Vicks VapoRub to her chest (for kids over 2).
  • Serve her chicken soup According to some studies, it can actually loosen congestion.
  • Give her a shot of saline nasal spray if she'll tolerate it.
  • Add nose-and-throat-soothing moisture to her room by turning on a humidifier or vaporizer.
  • Run her a bath Cool water may help bring down a fever. If she's coughing or congested, run a hot shower to steam up the bathroom.
  • Air out her room while she's taking her bath or shower so it feels fresh and clean for bedtime.
  • Keep your cool -- even in the age of H1N1, your child will get better!