Keeping your wee ones well as the weather turns.

Autumn often marks the start of the season for sniffles, coughs and colds. If you have babies or toddlers in your family, they’re likely to get at least one or two colds during the cooler months. Cold and flu viruses are highly contagious and can very quickly make the rounds at daycare, playgroups and homes. But with a little care, you can reduce your children’s chances of catching a bug – and reduce its severity!

Good hygiene

Instill good hygiene habits in your children from a young age. Help them wash their hands with soap and warm water before meals and snacks, after playgrounds, and after the toilet for older kids. Try to discourage your children from rubbing their eyes or nose to avoid transferring germs. As soon as they’re old enough, teach them to use a tissue to catch sneezes and coughs, and to dab their watery eyes or itchy nose.

The joys of daycare

If your children are in daycare, you already know how easily they can pick up bugs! Check your centre’s sickness policy. Many require a child with a fever, flu, vomiting, diarrhoea or an eye infection to stay home until these symptoms subside.

Healthy eating and sleeping

Offer your child a variety of healthy foods so they get the nutrients they need. Make sure they get enough sleep each night and a daytime nap if needed, along with plenty of physical activity and good old fresh air every day.

When your child gets sick

Young children average eight to ten colds a year, so no matter how hard you try to prevent them, it's a good bet your wee ones will bring home a few bugs this winter. Make them comfortable until they’re better and remember the ‘4R’s’ of coughs and colds:

  • Rest: Sometimes easier said than done! If your child has outgrown their nap, encourage a relaxing activity such as reading, watching a video or a quiet game.
  • Rehydrate: Children lose body fluid quickly when sick, so encourage drinking plenty of fluids such as water, juice, electrolyte solutions or milk. If you’re breastfeeding, offer regular feeds.
  • Relieve: If your child is really uncomfortable, give him or her paracetamol, such as Pamol®. Paracetamol is the recommended first line medicine for relief from pain and fever in children1, and is the only medicine you should give babies under 12 months without a doctor’s advice2.
  • Review: While most cold and flu viruses clear up within a few days, some turn into more serious conditions that require prompt treatment. If you are concerned about your child’s health, contact your healthcare professional for advice.

Cuddles work wonders

When children are under the weather, they need extra TLC. In addition to, tissues and temperature checks, make time to simply snuggle with them. Give plenty of hugs and time on your lap, and if you normally have a "no kids in the big bed" rule at night, think about temporarily relaxing the policy.

Keep it all in perspective

When taking care of a sick, miserable child, try to remember that most illnesses pass in a week or so and may ultimately help strengthen your child's immune system. As your wee ones get older and build up immunity to viruses, the sick days will get fewer and further between. In the meantime, keep up the hand washing and hugs, and stock up on tissues!

References: 1. Avoiding medication errors in children: a practical guide for healthcare professionals. BPJ issue 29, Jul 2010. 2. Medsafe Label Statements Database Edition 1.15 Dec 2014. PAMOL® for the treatment of child pain and fever. Always read the label and use as directed. Incorrect use can be harmful. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional. ® Registered Trademark. Aspen Pharmacare C/- Healthcare Logistics, Auckland, TAPS PP6323.