Stuffy nose. Sore, scratchy throat. Barking cough. Headache. You probably recognize the signs of a common cold all too well. After all, a cold is the single most common infectious disease in people, according to Medical News Today.
You catch a cold when a virus infects your upper respiratory system. It spreads quickly once tiny beads of fluid enter your body, often from a sneeze, cough, or kiss. There are hundreds of viruses that can cause a cold; you can never build up immunity to all of them.
So when your kid gets a cold, there are lots of things you can do to bolster your immune system and minimize the chances of catching it from her. Let's start with one of the most obvious: washing your hands.
Wash your hands often
It's tough to keep your hands germ-free when you're sick. After all, we use our hands to shield a cough or act as an impromptu tissue when one isn't available. So not only should you wash your hands regularly, but make sure your kid washes his or her hands often, too. Encourage better follow-through by making a game out of it or introducing soaps in fun shapes or scents to make washing more enticing.
Have your child use tissues
When your child coughs or sneezes, have him or her use a tissue and discard it right away. If none is available, the crook of the child's arm is second-best. This helps contain the mucus droplets infected with the virus. Children should keep their hands to themselves and off objects other people touch, like counters or drinking glasses, to avoid spreading the virus.
Don't share food
Colds can be transferred by saliva, so don't share food that your little one has already eaten. If your child tends not to finish everything on his or her plate, give the kid smaller portions when sick. This way, you won't waste food or be tempted to polish it off for your child out of habit.
Eat chicken soup
This is no old wives' tale: Chicken soup contains stuff that's great for fighting colds. Its hot fluid base helps move mucus, limiting the virus' contact with the nose lining. Chicken soup also may hinder the immune system's inflammatory response to a virus, thereby reducing congestion, according to the Mayo Clinic. Vitamin-rich vegetables in the broth also turbo-boost the immune system's ability to fight infection.
Drink lots of fluids
You can't defeat a cold by flushing it out of your system, but drinking lots of fluids can help. This is both a powerful preventative measure and an effective remedy if you're already sick. Clear broth, juice, decaffeinated herbal tea, water and lemon water with honey all help keep you hydrated and loosen uncomfortable congestion. Avoid dehydrating liquids like alcohol, and caffeinated coffee or sodas.
Eat nutrient-rich foods
If your child has a cold or you feel like you might be coming down with one, tweak your diet. You should be eating mostly nutrition-rich foods, especially fruits and veggies, which are packed with vitamins to keep your immune system functioning at its best. Juices can be nourishing, too -- just lay off concentrated and sugary varieties.
Make ginger tea
Many people swear by ginger tea to beef up the immune system, help fight colds and cure a sore throat. Try grating ginger root with a fine cheese grater or grinding it into a paste. Put about a spoonful into a hot cup of water; let it steep for a few minutes, then drink up.
Keep your child cordoned off
Keep your little one in his or her room, if possible. This way, your child's germs stay confined to one area. Make the kid's time home in bed very pleasant to decrease his or her distress and to help ensure he or she stays away from the other healthy members of your family, as well as the common areas where they hang out.
Sanitize your child's toys and common areas
Little kids who are sick with colds still manage to play with their toys. It's a good idea to draw a bleach bath and soak plastic toys to disinfect them. Also, spray down counters, railings, table tops and other surface areas with disinfectant several times a day. And keep hand sanitizer around and use frequently.
Get enough good sleep
Turns out sleep plays a causal role in your susceptibility for developing a cold. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that if you average less than seven hours of sleep per night, your chances of catching a cold triple. The same study also found that quality of sleep is important. In other words, uninterrupted, deep sleep will help you stave off a cold much better than getting a light night's rest in which you toss and turn or don't fall asleep right away.
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- Cohen, Sheldon, PhD; William J. Doyle, PhD; Cuneyt M. Alper, MD; Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD; Ronald B. Turner, MD., "Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold." Archives of Internal Medicine: Vol. 169 No. 1. Jan. 12, 2009. (Oct. 22, 2010)http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/169/1/62
- Mayo Clinic. "Cold Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, What Can't Hurt." (Oct. 20. 2010).http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cold-remedies/ID00036
- Melone, Linda. "Does Antibacterial Soap Work Better Than Regular Soap?" Everyday Health. (Oct. 26, 2010).http://www.everydayhealth.com/cold-and-flu/antibacterial-soap.aspx.
- Medical News Today. "What is a cold?" Oct. 7, 2009. (Oct. 22, 2010).http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/166606.php
- National Institutes of Health. "Ginger." (Oct. 26, 2010)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/961.html
- The People's Pharmacy. "Ginger Tea for Colds." (Oct. 26, 2010).http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2005/10/18/ginger-tea-for-colds