…is a refrain I hear again and again when parents explain why they are not taking their sick children to see the pediatrician. Parents–and increasingly, medical professionals–know that not every little cough, cold or flu requires medication. More and more, parents will endure the sniffles and sneezes, let the temperature creep up on the thermometer, and suffer sleepless nights rather than suppress symptoms with grape-flavored syrup from the drug store. They wait and they watch until the child either gets better spontaneously or the illness takes a turn for the worst, landing them in after hours care.
It’s true that getting sick helps make kids immune systems strong, and that most childhood ailments will go away by themselves. However, abstaining from medication and “watchful waiting” are not the same thing. If you want to prevent that cold from becoming bronchitis, that cough from turning into pneumonia, then you should take action! Not just watch and hope it goes away. When you know your child is getting sick, here are some things you can do to help ensure the sickness will fortify them rather than lead them to the doctor after days of misery.
Cut out dairy, sugar, and any white-flour foods. Cutting out processed foods all together (anything in a bag or a box) is even better! But dairy and sugars are must-dos. This includes juice. If you must give juice, dilute 1 tablespoon of juice in 1 cup of water.
Offer warming teas of ginger and lemon, and warm broth to drink.
Try to stimulate a fever in an afebrile child by giving them a warm bath with a warm cup of ginger tea to drink. After the bath, it’s straight under the covers to “sweat it out!”
If the fever is already strong–103 is the lower end of a good fever–then do your best to make your child comfortable without reducing the fever. (Temps persisting over 103F with no other symptoms warrant a call to the doctor.) Cool compresses to the forehead are nice for this. If the fever reaches 105, you can put your child in a lukewarm bath–the water should be about 102 degrees, and you can slowly add more cool water as your child’s temperature goes down.
At first sign of cough, cold or congestion do “Warming Socks” at bedtime: At bedtime, soak thin cotton socks in cold water; wring them out very well. Have your child wiggle his toes to warm up his feet, or rub them with your hands to get the blood going. Put the cold wet socks on your child’s feet. Cover them immediately with thick, dry, wool socks. (Polar fleece can work too, if need be). Then tuck your child under his blankets in a warm bed! The socks will warm and dry overnight. Repeat this nightly until your child has is symptom free for a couple of days.