Winter is here and that means it’s time to check that you’re stocked up on remedies for winter ills and chills – and not forgetting a big bottle of sympathy! Be prepared with our tips to help keep the family healthy through the colder months.
Even on a good year, it will be a rare family who doesn’t get hit with a nasty round of coughs and colds. So parents will need to have their family winter wellness kit at the ready for those poorly family members.
There are a few ways to try and avoid getting this season’s ills and chills:
Get an annual flu shot
Flu vaccination is recommended for anyone over the age of six months and particularly for those with underlying illnesses or conditions or who work closely with children. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist to find out more.
Practice and teach hygiene
Now’s the time to have the talk with the family (if they’re old enough to understand) about how to stop the spread of germs, and to go about instigating some practices like regular washing of hands and surfaces, not sharing personal items like utensils, food and drink bottles, and keeping family members home if they’re sick.
Nurturing immune systems
A healthy diet rich in everything the body needs, particularly iron and Vitamin C, can help the body fight off infection. Most of these nutrients are best sourced from fresh foods but if you’re struggling to get them into your little family members, by all means try an age-appropriate supplement.
Be prepared: Cold and flu tool kit
- Offer a variety of foods as part of a balanced diet including lots of vegetables and yummy citrus fruits
- Keep antibacterial wipes or gel in the handbag, nappy bag, and in the car for quick cleanups
- Put up reminder pictures or notes in the bathroom about washing hands after using the loo and before eating
- Have a family chat about how germs are spread and personal hygiene
- Ensure kids are getting plenty of sleep as well as regular exercise
Treating colds and flu
Chances are, despite all the best intentions, some sort of nasty lurgy will enter your home and take up temporary residence in your family. While there’s no cure for flu or the common cold, sufferers can be made to feel more comfortable and some of the symptoms can be treated both with medicines and natural methods.
First, work out if it is the flu or just a cold. Cold symptoms may last a couple days while the flu can last up to a week or more. The flu often causes a high fever whereas a cold only sometimes causes a mild fever. Shivering and body aches are usually symptoms of the flu, rather than a cold.
While serious complications with flu are rare it is still responsible for an average of 1200 hospital admissions each year* with children and the elderly most at risk. So it’s worth keeping an eye on your sufferers and keeping them comfortable.
There are treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms of cold and flu. But remember, as flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not only unnecessary, they won’t work.
Here are some of the treatments which can help with cold and flu symptoms. Always read the label, use only as directed, ensure that medicines are appropriate for your child’s age, and pay close attention to the correct dosage.
- Paracetamol – this can ease aches and pains and help reduce a fever.
- Lozenges – these can relieve sore throats and coughing but are unsuitable for young children.
- Cough syrups and decongestants – talk to your pharmacist about which one is suitable for your child and their symptoms.
- Antivirals – there are now specific antiviral drugs available, but their effectiveness is very limited, although they may shorten the length and severity of the illness if used early enough.
There are some other remedies which can help to keep sufferers comfortable, including:
- Bed rest – encourage your littlies to stay in bed or at least rest until their temperature returns to normal for 48 hours. If they have a fever, keep bedcoverings light and avoid overdressing.
- Keep hydrated – ensure enough fluids are drunk to maintain normal urine output. It can also aid in the effectiveness of medicines like paracetamol.
- For a cold, a warm compress can help soothe sinus pain or a headache. For a fever, a lukewarm compress on the forehead may help reduce a fever.
- Give lots of hugs and cuddles!
Often the best treatments are a combination of medicines with non-drug options. Talk to your GP or chemist about the best ways to treat flu.
Other essentials for your cold and flu kit
- Tissues – if there’s a lot of nose-blowing going on, the ones with aloe vera or chamomile can be a welcome relief.
- An empty ice-cream container makes a handy receptacle for used tissues before they’re binned.
- Congestion clearing chest rubs can be handy when applied just before sleep. Many parents swear by the remedy of applying the rub to the soles of your child’s feet and popping on socks.
- Warm soup really is good for the patient as well as the soul, offering sustenance, warmth and hydration.
- Thermometer – if you use a digital one, ensure the battery is good.
Clearing the air
A portable air purifier used in the patient’s room can help to remove allergens and pollutants and give the cold or flu sufferer a healthier environment for recovery.
When to see the doctor
See your GP if a high fever persists or further symptoms develop such as difficulty breathing, coughing up green-yellow phlegm or severe headache or rash develops. Children under six months old with even a mild fever should see a doctor. Also see your doctor if you’re at all concerned.