Advice about Colds & Flu

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Reducing colds and flu

Nov 2005

I've always had a tendency to catch colds and flus but since I had my daughter 5-1/ 2 years ago, I have been constantly sick, particularly from September through March, when these germs are more prevalent. Most of the time, I'm catching them from my daughter but there are also times when she doesn't appear sick and I develop something. Also, whatever I catch seems to hang around forever. I have tried everything to boost my immune system, and nothing seems to work. I've taken lots of vitamins, large doses of vitamin C, changed my diet (eliminated wheat and other foods I was sensitive to). I went to a nutritionist who prescribed a complex assortment of supplements and gone to an acupuncturist, as well as to my general practitioner. It seems that nothing works for me. People tell me that as my daughter gets older, she will catch fewer bugs but it's been 5-1/2 years and it doesn't seem to slow down. This year, since Sept., I have had a stomach flu and a two-week cold that turned into an upper respiratory flu. I'm certain that stress is a factor since I work full-time and am juggling parenthood, being a spouse, keeping house, taking care of two dogs, etc. But plenty of people do all of this without constantly being sick. When I'm feeling well, I get a good amount of exercise and I eat healthfully. I know there's no cure for the common cold, but does anyone have suggestions for me? anonymous

My advice is to get sufficient, uninterupted sleep, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet, and do outdoor excercise regularly, even walking in the rain, and wash your hands well several times daily. The last time my daughter and I were sick was, seriously, 2002. We don't do anything special, no vitamins, no herbs, no actupunture, nothing. I take public transportation every day, work in an old, dusty building, and my daughter went to fulltime day care and now goes to public kindergarten. Our stress level is pretty low, maybe that is the key. --knock on wood
Since my son got cancer a year ago and having to go throuch chemotherapy, which makes his immune level to one third of normal people, we applied one simple rule, washing our hands. We put hand wash soap on every sink with a roll of paper towel, and we wash our hand a lot, when we come back from work or school, before eating meals and snacks, after using bathrooms, and whenever we feel our hands got dirty. Surprizingly, my son who is supposed be so weak, has not gotten flu since his diagnosis. I, my husband, and our younger son got a couple of flu in the last one year, but the numbers of cold/flu had declined siginificantly. We also ask anyone who comes in to our house to wash their hands at first. I hope this simple practice may work for you too. Hand washing believer
Maybe this is too obvious, but are you washing your hands? Insanely vigilant hand washing is the only way I have found to reduce colds and flu. By insanely vigilant, I mean washing hands before every meal or snack, whenever I get home, have shaken hands, have touched public doors, etc. My child is submitted to a somewhat less vigilant form of this, since I don't want to make him insane. I tend to touch my face a lot -- eyes and mouth particularly -- and so I try to make a conscious effort not to do this if I haven't washed my hands. I keep alcohol wash in the car and in my purse and my son and I both use it. nelly
This may seem simplistic but I have found that getting into bed by 9, or the latest 9:15, has made a huge difference in the amount of colds I get. I try to turn the lights out by 9:30. I sometimes wake very early in the morning but still find that I am healthier getting to be earlier. It sounds like you have tried everything else! Jill
Boy can I relate to your situation! I am currently working with a very special nutritionist of sorts who is really helping me a great deal. I'd be happy to tell you more about the work and how to get hold of her if you're interested. She's in North Berkeley and uses muscle testing to determine what your specific body needs and what part of your body needs extra support and healing. It's remarkable work and more personalized than, say, taking supplements that might not even be absorbed by your body. Email me if you're interested and I'll put you in touch with her. gala

Cold Medication for 1 year-old?

Nov 2004

Hi I'm looking for medication for my 1 year old that consist less inactive ingredients (i.e. dye). Any suggestion about cold and pain/fever relivers? Natural remedies, homeopathy? Thanks, Elena

You might want to take a look at the latest issue of Consumer Reports. They seem to say that over the counter cold remedies, particularly cough medicines, for children are generally ineffective. Things that work for adults do not work for kids; the possibilities of side effects, however slight, outweigh likely benefits. Their reporting seems to me to usually be pretty objective, so I took their views seriously even though I am someone who is not against using OTC medicines in general. Fran
Editor Note: In January 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned parents not to use the meds in infants and toddlers after three babies' deaths in 2005 were linked to the toxic effects of cough and cold medicines, which sent more than 1,500 kids under 2 to emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005. In October 2007, drug-makers took the proactive step of voluntarily yanking 14 popular cough and cold medicines labeled for babies and toddlers from the market. More info here: Center for Disease Control

Two-year-old's raw nose with a cold

Jan 2004

My almost-2-year-old has another cold, and once again his poor little nose is red and raw from my wiping it with tissues (he doesn't know how to blow yet). Are there any ideas as to how to prevent this, such as good creams to use or better tissues I should buy (I'm just using regular Kleenex) or different nose- wiping techniques? The poor little guy just cringes whenever I come near him.... Rudolph's Mama

Golly, do I love those tissues with aloe. They make a big difference. We also use cloth hankies, which help. And you know what? Diapers make good hankies, albeit a bit large. Wendy
Definitely get Puffs Plus tissues. They are much easier on the nose than regular tissues. There are other competing brands that also contain lotion, but Puffs Plus are the best. Puffs Plus Proponent
Try wiping with an cloth diaper (we have a stack to use as rags) and putting some vaseline under his nose once or twice a day. anon
I use only the Kleenex with lotion added. My kids rarely get raw noses from them, nor do I for that matter and I have my share of colds. You can get them at Costco now. If they do get raw, some Aquaphor on the nose at bedtime helps... Hilary
We use vaseline whenever our son's nose has gotten raw from a cold. You wipe it off the next time you wipe, but it does seem to help. It also really helps to put it on at bedtime when it can really do some work since you're not wiping every 10 minutes. We also use the kleenex with lotion in it. I personally find it much more soothing when I have a cold and so I use it with my son as well. Good Luck! Nancy
Try Aquaphor (available at Longs). We use it on my son for his eczema, but I've taken to using it on my other kids' noses when they are red and raw (mine too!). It's amazing. Jennifer
Quick! go buy some ''Puffs'' facial tissues ''with aloe''! They are significantly softer and can even be soothing. Also, when my child has a runny nose I buy chapstick (menthol scented if possible) and apply it to her nostrils (externally) and her lip (''mustashe'' area) after each time I wipe her nose. These two things make a HUGE difference. Lastly, buy some non-medicated saline nose spray/drops. It really helps loosen the mucus up when your child is too young to blow their nose.
We us any nonpetroleum based chapstick around our kid's nostrils and on their upper lip. This also works well for cleanning the crusty morning nose secretions off their sensitive skin. SOmetimes we use the tissues with aloe, but they aren't very absorbant. nose wiper

Cold treatment for 2-year-old

Nov 2002

Now that cold season is upon us again, I wanted to ask if anyone has any special cold treatments that work well for them (medications, steam etc.). My 2.5 year old has colds almost constantly during the winter (or so it seems) despite having rather little contact with other children. And, unlike some children that I know who barely notice their colds, she is very unhappy (can't breath, can't sleep, coughs, very very runny nose) for at least 2 weeks with each cold. Any advice? I haven't seen this discussed in the archives. Thanks! a mom who is dreading the winter cold season

As soon as my 4 year old starts to sniffle, I give her children's Ecinacha (sp), available at the health food store or Berkeley Bowl and ''Yin Chow Jr.,'' available at Shen Clinic in Berkeley. I'm told the yin chow jr. is NOT the same formula as the adult version, but it seems to do the trick. My daughter's symptoms rarely develop into a full blown cold. I've also had great sucess with homeopathy, but it is harder to determine the correct remedy. Good luck. Ariel
i would recommend you call your child's pediatrician to discuss getting the flu shot this season. this year, the american academy of pediatrics is recommending the flu shot for children. this may benefit your child, especially when a tough flu season is anticipated. good luck! a mom that believes in vaccinations
I find that washing my child's hands frequently makes a significant difference in number of colds. I wash his hands when I pick him up from childcare and before he eats meals or snacks. jen
I drink (and my kids, now) 2 tsp organic apple cider vinegar with 2 tsp honey in hot water throughout the day when I'm getting a cold. The apple cider vin. has some really strong healing properties and if I catch my sniffles or scratchy throat in time it works. I also regularly take lots of vitamins.

There is a product called (I think) Zinex or something like that. It's a homeopathic product. It's a zinc jell. You put it in your nose the second you feel the possibility of a cold and you will not get a cold. My brother swears by this stuff. I used it once at the right time and I did not get a cold. I used it again a little too late and I still got the cold but not as bad. The reason we get colds is because our immune system is not functioning at it's best. This is a really hard one for kids cause they usually are not open to the healthiest of foods. Eating a lot of sugar, packaged foods (I'm not saying you do, but for the people who do) preservatives and not enough fruits and vegies will deplete the immune system. Washing hands a lot helps. Good luck. anon please

My 6 month old daughter had a terrible case of the sniffles and coughs and really couldn't sleep well which made her very cranky. My pediatrician suggested Dimetapp Infant Drops which worked wonders. You can get a formula that is just a decongestant or a decongestant and cough suppressant. For a young infant, ask your pediatrician how much to give. Mary
For the very runny nose, I use a warm steam humidifier at night. It keeps their nose running instead of allowing it to get stuffed up so they can't breathe and therefore not sleep. It makes a mess of the pillow case, but at least they sleep. Also, for just a cough, there is a fairly new cough medicine my doctor recommended called Delsym that I just love. Check with your doctor about whether it's safe for a 2 year old.

And better than all these, become paranoid about hand washing to help prevent getting sick in the first place. Carry instant sanitizer with you everywhere and use it before every meal and snack. It really does make a difference. Mother of 3 sickies

Two useful items: 1. Ayr saline nasal gel keeps nasal passages from getting crusty /red and quickly helps one breathe more easily (best applied when child is sleeping if they object to it, tho some like the gel) 2. Kids herbal cough elixir, black cherry flavor. (Found at Berk Bowl or Whole Foods, made by ''Eclectic''). And I just picked up Echinacea and Vit. C gummi bears at Trader Joe's... Sooz