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Cough, cold, and flu

What is it?

Colds and the flu are both caused by contagious viruses.

Who is affected?

Colds and the flu are more common among children. In fact, a child can have 6-8 colds per year1.

What are the symptoms?

The onset of symptoms begins almost immediately after exposure and lasts as long as your child is exposed to the allergen Symptoms include:

  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery and itchy eyes

What can I do to prevent and treat It?

Take these steps to reduce your child's exposure to allergens:

  • Make sure you and your children wash hands frequently.
  • Make sure your child gets all vaccinations.
  • If possible, breastfeed your baby the first six months.
  • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and teach your children to do the same.
  • Do not share eating utensils.
  • Avoid exposure to other children with colds (keep your child at home if they have a cold).
  • Keep toys and surfaces clean with a mild disinfectant.
  • Children between six and twenty three months old should get a flu shot each fall.
  • Keep the room temperature comfortable for you. A hot dry environment will increase congestion.
  • Put a vaporizer or cool a humidifier in his or her room.

There are several types of over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help treat colds, coughs and the flu:

  • Treatments are for the symptoms; therefore only treat your child if the symptoms are making the child feel ill.
  • Lozenges - soothes throats
  • Pain relievers
  • Do not give your child oral antihistamines or decongestants unless you are told to do so by a health care provider.
  • Consult your child's doctor before giving OTC medications to children below 6 months.
  • Remember: antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections, not viruses; so therefore this is not the appropriate treatment for a cold and flu.
  • Avoid giving your child large doses of Vitamin C or Zinc. There is little evidence that it will provide any additional benefit.
  • The amount of medicine your child should receive is based on your child's weight or age. Always read the package for dosing information or ask a pharmacist or a health care provider.

The following are examples of OTC Medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of a cough, cold, or flu:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products

Loosen and relieve chest congestion

Expectorant

Guaifenesin
Example: Robitussin®
(Indicated for children two years old or older. For treating children under the age of two consult a health care provider.)

Relieve sore throat

Pain reliever

Ibuprofen
Example: Children's Advil®
(Drops are indicated for children 6 to 23 months. Pills are for indicated for children two years old and older. For treating children under the age of six months consult a health care provider.)

Acetaminophen
(Indicted for children two years old or older Children less than 6 years old should receive liquid form. For treating children under the age of two consult a health care provider.)

Benzocaine,Menthol (lozenge)

Relieve headache
Pain reliever

Ibuprofen
Example: Children's Advil®
(Indicted for children two years old or older Children less than 6 years old should receive liquid form. For treating children under the age of two consult a health care provider.)

Acetaminophen
(Indicted for children two years old or older. Children less than 6 years old should receive liquid form For treating children under the age of two consult a health care provider.)

* Active ingredients: ingredients in a medication that produce a therapeutic response


Sources:

1 Wyeth Consumer Healthcare 2002. Colds and the Flu - what you can do to help your child

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

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