10 Cold & Flu Kid-soothing Secrets
By Sharon Liao
The average kid suffers through eight colds a year, which means that all parents become well versed in nursing a miserable, sniffling child back to health. That’s why we turned to the experts — real moms and dads like you — for their go-to moves for easing symptoms, entertaining bored kids and staying sane during sick season. The next time your little one is under the weather, try using a few of these tips and tricks:
1. Find restful activities.
“To keep my 21-month-old son entertained when he’s under the weather, I focus on activities he can do while seated, like puzzles, coloring books and stickers. We also work on little skills, like “pull off your sock’ or “try to get your slipper on by yourself.’ It sounds small, but it keeps him resting while he’s occupied. I also let him watch TV and play with my iPhone or iPad: Since he’s usually not allowed to do those things, it’s a big treat.” — Brooke Lea Foster, parenting blogger (MommyMoi)
2. Serve up cold-fighting foods.
“I feed my kids meals that help boost their immune system and speed the healing process: foods rich in vitamin A (carrots and broccoli), vitamin C (pineapple, strawberries and OJ) and zinc (whole-grain cereal, lean meat and beans). Getting enough fluids is also crucial, so I encourage them to drink water and sip soup. My mom makes the best chicken soup, and she always drops off a batch when someone is sidelined with a cold.” — Elisa Zied, registered dietician with a master’s degree, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips and Feed Your Family Right!, founder/president of Zied Health Communications
3. Scrub right way.
“To prevent the spread of germs throughout the house and to yourself, instruct your kids to wash their hands regularly. Studies show that kids typically only run the water for five seconds and leave with their hands dripping wet, which isn’t effective. Teach them to sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ or say their ABCs as the scrub up, and dry their hands thoroughly on a clean towel afterwards.
Also make sure that you do the same — only 30 percent of adults hit the sink after coughing or sneezing! If you sometimes forget, consider leaving a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer right outside of your sick child’s room.” — Harley Rotbart, M.D., professor and vice chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Denver, author of Germ Proof Your Kids, father of three
4. Ask for a hand.
“To keep my own sanity when the kids are sick, I call in the reserves! My mother-in-law lives locally, so she’s a big help and a fun person to visit when the kids can’t play with their buddies. I might plan an outing for the evening — maybe a movie with girlfriends — so I have something to look forward to after being cooped up in the house all day.
I also ask my husband for assistance. We recently had to give our 2-year-old daughter eye drops, and it was a team effort. My husband held and distracted her, while I applied the medicine and repeated the word “gentle” to calm her down. When we finished, we clapped, sang and danced, and all was forgotten in no time.” — Elizabeth Detmer, mom of two
5. Provide comfort.
“During a cold, the main goal is to keep your child comfortable — dressing in light layers and turning down the thermostat if necessary. Sometimes I’ll run a cooling bath to provide some relief and, if necessary, offer ibuprofen or acetaminophen for a fever.” — Dr. Hannah Chow, pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
6. Break out special treats.
When my two kids are sick, I bring out a goody bag that I keep for rainy days or when they’ve been especially good. It’s usually just filled with stuff that I’ve picked up at sales, like activity packs, puzzles, small toys and other seasonal crafts.
In the evenings, I’ll warm up apple cider, ginger tea with honey and lemon or vanilla soymilk, which is soothing. I try to cater to my kids when they’re under the weather, because being sick is no fun.” — Joanne Kim, mom of two
7. Fluff an extra pillow.
“My 4-year-old has an abundance of energy, so I know he’s sick when he actually slows down. To clear up his stuffy nose, I use a saline spray and prop an extra pillow under his head to help him breathe easier while he’s sleeping.
I’ve also taught him how to sneeze into the crook of his elbow so that he doesn’t spread germs. It’s hard to take care of a little one when you’re sick too!”
— Holly Tillotson, mom of one
8. Freeze popsicles.
“Cold popsicles help soothe sore throats. Try making your own from drinks that also provide a dose of vitamin C, like orange juice and fresh berry smoothies.” — Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian who holds a master’s in public health, clinical pediatric dietitian in the community education department of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association
9. Play it on repeat.
“Although it can drive me crazy, I let my kids watch their favorite movies as many times as they want. My 3-year-old daughter just had a stomach bug and watched Tangled three times over two days. I knew she was feeling better when she got up to sing and even dance a little during the song “Mother Knows Best.” — Betsy Stephens, blogger (Working for Cookies)
10. Bend the rules.
“My biggest advice for our own sanity as moms is to drop the demands. Let me explain: As parents, we ask our kids to do things, from the simple ‘drink your milk’ to the complex ‘clean your room.’ Then we have to follow through and make sure they listen to us. When kids are sick, they’re less able to do as we say, because they’re cranky and miserable. Any little thing can trigger a meltdown. So it makes sense to table regular requests (pick up your toys), but follow through on anything that you do ask (put the tissue in the trash can). This approach will make it easier for children to transition back to meeting your behavior expectations when they’re feeling better.” — Carin Daddino, former special education teacher and mom of two
Photo: Corbis Images
Sharon Liao is an editor and writer in Brooklyn, NY. She has been on staff at SHAPE, Prevention and Fitness magazines.