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Cold & Flu: Age-by-Age Guide: 6 Months & Up

Once your child has weathered a few colds or the flu in his infant years, his body will be better prepared to handle it again. You can still help prevent your child from catching a cold or the flu by teaching her to wash her hands and keeping germ hotspots clean, boosting your child's immune system by encouraging her eat well, stay active and get enough sleep, and have her vaccinated against the seasonal flu.

If your child does catch a cold or the seasonal flu, there are not many medicinal options for treatment. If your child is over the age of 6, she can take an over-the-counter decongestant to alleviate symptoms, but talk to your pediatrician about which decongestant is best for your child. If your child has the seasonal flu, you can also discuss antiviral medication options with your pediatrician. If medication is not an option, you can try these alternative treatments to make her feel comfortable until it passes:

If your child does have a cold or the flu, there's not much you can do except try alternative treatments to make her feel comfortable until it passes.

  • To loosen mucus, have your child sit in a steaming bathroom, keep a steam vaporizer or cool-mist humidifier on in his room, and keep plenty of tissues on hand for nose-blowing.
  • For a cough or sore throat, honey (half a teaspoon for ages 2 to 5, 1 teaspoon for ages 6 to 11 and 2 teaspoons for ages 12 and up) can be soothing, as can cold fruit smoothies, ice pops, or a warm bowl of chicken soup. A mentholated vapor chest rub, such as Vick's, can also help kids 2 and up.
  • If your child has a fever of 103ºF or high, call the pediatrician. For a mild fever, a tepid bath and dressing in light layers can offer relief.
  • For diarrhea and vomiting, be sure to offer rehydrating drinks like Pedialyte or Gatorade, and small portions of bland foods like rice, For diarrhea and vomiting noodles, or toast. Call the pediatrician immediately if there is blood or bile in the vomit, or blood in the diarrhea.

Acetaminophen is approved in children younger than 6 months, but consult your MD. For kids 6 and up, ask your doctor to recommend an over-the-counter cough or cold medicine, and give doses according to directions. A mentholated vapor rub, such as Vicks, can help soothe coughing in kids over 2, but it can irritate airways and increase mucus in kids under two. Do not give your children aspirin as it has been linked with Reye's syndrome. 

Remember to call the pediatrician if:

  • Your child's cold or flu doesn't go away within a week
  • Your child has a high fever (103ºF degrees or higher)
  • Your child is vomiting or has diarrhea for more than a few hours, or if there is blood or bile in the vomit or blood in the diarrhea
  • Your child has difficulty breathing, or the lips or nails turn blue
  • Your child complains of ear pain
  • Your child seems unusually lethargic, sleepy or cranky

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