• By: OLM Staff

Parents’ Guide to Surviving Cold and Flu Season

Dr. Stephanie Liu, a family physician, is dedicated to children’s health, especially during cold and flu season.

Ottawa Life Magazine recently spoke with Dr. Liu about common ailments that children get during the fall and winter, how they can be alleviated, and when it is best to seek medical attention for your little ones.

Quality Sleep is Critical

Dr. Liu emphasizes something often overlooked when sick: sleep is critical for children’s health, growth, and development. During deep sleep, the body releases growth hormones vital for physical and brain development. Dr. Liu says, “While sleeping, our bodies don’t just sit idle – this is an important time for repair, replenishing energy stores and strengthening the immune system.”

Parents need to know that a lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and affect children’s emotional well-being, leading to irritability and difficulty managing emotions.

Ensuring quality sleep can be challenging when children are sick, but Dr. Liu suggests elevating their heads with an extra pillow to ease congestion and using a humidifier to moisten the air and clear nasal passages. Saline nasal drops can also help, along with offering honey or a product that contains honey like Zarbee’s® Soothing Cough Syrup, which soothes dry, irritated throats and helps provide relief from coughs.

Differences Between a Cold and Flu

Determining whether your child has a cold or the flu can be tricky since both share similar symptoms, but Dr. Liu says, “Flu tends to be associated with a fever and sudden onset of symptoms, whereas a cold can often come on more gradually and generally begins with a stuffy or runny nose.”

Managing Symptoms

Dr. Liu recommends rest and hydration to care for children with colds or flu. Diluted apple juice can help replenish fluids, but only use 50 percent juice at most, as too much sugar can cause further dehydration. Over-the-counter medications like Tylenol® and Motrin® provide fast, effective relief of fever and pain due to colds or flu, and chicken soup can provide comfort and alleviate inflammation.

Dr. Liu says that chicken soup is not just an old wive’s tale; it has medical benefits. A study published in the CHEST Journal (2000) found that the soup “had anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the severity of common cold symptoms.” Moreover, it tastes good, so even picky eaters will consume it when they’re under the weather.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Parents should seek medical attention if their child is under three months old with a fever, has a persistent fever for four or more days, has difficulty maintaining fluid intake, experiences breathing difficulties, appears excessively sleepy or is difficult to wake. Dr. Liu advises parents to be proactive about children’s health during cold and flu season as it can help them recover faster and prevent complications.

Canadian parents often feel uncertain about distinguishing between a cold and the flu and struggle with helping their children sleep better when sick, but Dr. Liu says parental knowledge and understanding during cold and flu season will empower them to provide better care for their children, ensuring they recover quickly.