Caring for a Child with a Viral Infection
My child has a virus, how can I help her feel better?
While you may be able to keep germs from spreading, you can’t always keep your child from getting sick. Use the following tips to help keep your child healthy:
- Keep hands clean. Everyone should wash their hands several times a day to keep germs from spreading.
- Avoid sharing eating utensils, drinking cups, toothbrushes, washcloths, or towels with anyone who has a cold or fever.
- Wash dishes and utensils in hot, soapy water.
- Don’t smoke around your child. Don’t smoke in the car or around the house.
Kids First Pediatrics may recommend the following ways to soothe a sick child:
To relieve a stuffy nose
- Use saline (saltwater) nose drops to thin nasal discharge. Ask Kids First Pediatrics about which ones to use. Place a few drops of the saline into each nostril followed by gentle bulb suction. This works best for babies younger than 3 months.
- During the illness, use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in your child’s room. This helps moisten the air and may help clear your child’s nasal passages. Be sure to clean the humidifier or vaporizer often, as recommended by the manufacturer.
To relieve chest congestion
- Chest physical therapy can loosen mucus and may help infants and young children cough it out. Lay your child across your knees, face down; cup your hand; and gently tap your child’s back. Or sit your child on your lap, lean her body forward about 30 degrees, cup your hand, and gently tap her back.
- During the illness, use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in your child’s room. This helps moisten the air and may help clear your child’s congestion. Be sure to clean the humidifier or vaporizer often, as recommended by the manufacturer.
To relieve a cough
- Try half a teaspoon of honey for children aged 2 to 5 years, 1 teaspoon for children aged 6 to 11 years, and 2 teaspoons for children 12 years and older. If honey is given at bedtime, make sure you brush your child’s teeth afterward. Remember, it’s not safe to give honey to babies younger than 1 year.
- For a child aged 4 years and older, cough drops or lozenges may help soothe the throat. Remember not to give cough drops or lozenges to a child younger than 4 years because he could choke on them. Also do not give your child more cough drops than directed on the package.
To relieve a fever
- Give acetaminophen to a baby 6 months or younger. Give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen to a child older than 6 months. Ask your child’s doctor for the right dosage for your child’s age and size. Do not give aspirin to your child because it has been associated with Reye syndrome, a rare but very serious illness that affects the liver and the brain.
About other medicines
- Cough and cold medicine. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that over-the-counter cough and cold medications not be given to infants and children younger than 2 years because of the risk of life-threatening side effects. Also, several studies show that cold and cough products don’t work in children younger than 6 years and can have potentially serious side effects.
- Antibiotics. Kids First Pediatrics may prescribe an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection. For viral infections the body needs to fight the virus on its own because antibiotics won’t work.
Common Childhood Infections (Copyright © 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics, updated 4/08)