Caring for your child

There are several things you can do to make a child feel better:

Fluids

Encourage your child to drink more water, this helps keep them hydrated and replaces the fluids lost when they cough and sneeze.

Rest

Allow your child to rest as much as they like.

Pain/fever relief

Pain, discomfort or fever or  are best treated with Child Paracetamol and / or Ibuprofen. They will not help your child get better quicker, but they will make him or her feel better until his or her illness is gone.

Help to sleep

Raising up the head end of the bed (by propping up the bed frame, not using extra cushions) can help ease night time coughing.

If the cough is stopping your child sleeping, for children over 1 years, honey from a spoon or in a warm drink half an hour before bed time can help them sleep better

For children over 2 years, vapour rubs have also been shown to help children with a cough to sleep better, although some children may find them mildly irritating to skin when applied directly or to the nose when breathed in.

Help with blocked nose

A popular treatment for nasal stuffiness (blocked nose) in a baby is to put a few drops of saline (salt water) into the nose just before feeds. Some people feel that this helps to clear the nose to make feeding easier. There is little scientific evidence as to how well this works, but it may be worth a try if feeding is difficult. You can buy saline drops from pharmacies.

Help your child feel better

Medicines

The following medicines may be used to help with the relief of the symptoms of common childhood illnesses:

Antibiotics

When are antibiotics needed?

Antibiotics may help a very severe bacterial infection.  Most bacterial infections will get better without treatment.  Most children who take antibiotics do not get better any faster than people who do not take them. Children with bronchitis (chesty coughs) who take antibiotics will have a cough for only half a day less than those who don’t and may develop side effects from the antibiotics (such as diarrohea).

Antibiotics will not help coughs which are caused by viral infections, even when these infections are very bad.

How to get your child to take antibiotics

If your child has been prescribed a course of antibiotics, it is very important that the child takes the full course.

If it is difficult to get your child  to take the antibiotics, you may be able to try mixing them with a small amount of a favourite food (e.g. banana yoghurt).

Why is it not good to take antibiotics

There are several reasons why it is not a good idea to take antibiotics unless they are really needed.

  • Most antibiotics have side effects, e.g. diarrhoea, rashes and stomach upset.
  • Antibiotics kill all bacteria, including those that help to protect us. This can result in other illnesses such as thrush.
  • Antibiotics can also cause allergic reactions. These are often just annoying rashes, but can, in some cases, be severe reactions.
  • Using antibiotics can make bacteria stronger. The bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, and the antibiotics will no longer work against the bacteria. Someone who has recently had antibiotics is more likely to have resistant bacteria in their body. Some bacteria have become resistant to almost all antibiotics!

Cough medicines

When are cough medicines needed?

Cough medicines will not help the cough get better any faster.  There is some evidence that in children over 6 years, cough medicines may help reduce the symptoms.  Cough medicines are not safe for children under 6 years.

For children over 1 year, research has found that honey may actually be slightly better than cough medicines at helping children with a cough to sleep.  Children who were either given honey from a spoon or in a warm drink half an hour before bed time woke less often with their cough.

More information

Child Paracetamol / Ibuprofen

When are child paracetamol / ibuprofen needed?

Pain and fever are best treated with Child Paracetamol and / or Ibuprofen. They will not help your child get better any quicker, but they will make your child feel better until the illness is gone.

Paracetamol and Ibuprofen work differently. They can be used together if one alone has not worked. Just make sure you do not give more than the maximum recommended daily dose of either medicine.

Instructions for these medicines often say not to use them for more than a couple of days without seeing a doctor. If your child does not have any of the symptoms or signs on the Common Symptoms page where indicated ‘When to see the doctor’ , you can continue to treat with these medicines for longer than this.

 

Protect your child against illness

The most important things you can do to try and prevent your child getting ill are:

Hand washing

Wash or encourage your child to wash his/her hands frequently – hand washing can reduce coughs by 16%

Keep away from smoke

Keep your child well away from cigarette smoke

Eat well

Encourage your child to eat a healthy diet

Sleep well

Try to ensure your child gets plenty of sleep.

Vitamin supplements

There is some evidence that supplements may help prevent or reduce the severity of coughs:

Zinc

15mg zinc daily reduced number of coughs severity of symptoms and school absences

Vitamin C

200mg Vitamin C daily helped children recover quicker from cough

 

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