Here’s an important message for mums (and dads): it’s time to get your arsenal of treatments, your bottomless pit of sympathy and your soothing hands ready for another ‘influenza season.
Even on a good year, between 10 and 20% of New Zealanders will be laid low with a bout of ‘flu. And it will be a rare family who doesn’t get hit with a nasty cold. Parents, of course, will have no time for illness, and instead will need to have their arsenal at the ready for the poorly family members.
Preventing colds and ‘flu
There are a few ways to try to avoid getting this season’s nasty lurgy:
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.
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.
Boost immune systems
There’s no denying a healthy diet rich in everything the body needs, particularly iron and Vitamin C, will 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.
Cold and ‘flu prevention tool kit
- Lots of yummy citrus fruits in the fruit basket
- Antibacterial wipes or gel in the handbag, nappy bag and around the house
- Reminder pictures or notes in the bathroom about washing hands after using the loo and before eating
- A family chat about how germs are spread and personal hygiene
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 last a couple days while the flu can last up to a week. The ‘flu causes a high fever whereas a cold only sometimes causes a mild fever. Shivering and body aches are symptoms of the flu, but not 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 medicines that can relieve the symptoms of ‘flu but, remember, as the illness is caused by the influenza virus, antibiotics are not only unnecessary, they won’t work.
Here are some of the medicines which can treat ‘flu symptoms:
- Nurofen for Children – this pleasant tasting sugar free syrup has been formulated to target pain and fever in children. It starts to get to work in 15 minutes to relieve fever and provides relief for up to 8 hours. For children 7 years plus, Nurofen For Children Soft Chewable Capsules also provides temporary relief from the pain of cold and flu, as well as fever reduction. The easy to chew format means that there is no need to take with water, providing effective pain relief for when your child needs it most. See the box below for more information
- Antivirals – there are now specific antiviral drugs available, but their effectiveness is very limited, although they can shorten the length and severity of the illness if used early enough.
- Paracetamol – this will ease the aches and pains and help reduce the fever.
- Lozenges and gargles – these can relieve sore throats and coughing but should not be used by children.
Flu needs to run its course and there are some natural remedies which can keep sufferers comfortable including:
- Bed rest – encourage your littlies to stay in bed or at least rest until their temperature returned to normal for 48 hours.
- Keep hydrated – ensure enough fluids are drunk to maintain normal urine output. It also helps the effectiveness of medicines like paracetamol.
- A warm compress – these can soothe sinus pain and a headache.
- Give lots of hugs and cuddles – who can’t get better with mum and dad giving lots of love?!
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.
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. Also see your doctor if you’re at all concerned.