With the winter months approaching, many parents are now gearing up for the Cold and Flu season. Common colds and influenza are often confused but easily differentiated. A cold lasts between 2 and 5 days and is characterised by a sore throat, sneezing, stuffy and/or runny nose and coughing. Influenza includes the symptoms of a common cold but is also marked by fever, chills, headache and loss of appetite. A bout of the flu typically lasts longer than a cold, sometimes for weeks, and may come on suddenly with an increase in temperature above 38 degrees.
When children come into contact with cold and flu bacteria and viruses, some will develop the symptoms and some will not. This comes down to individual response and susceptibility, as it does with any disease or condition. If a child is in good health has strong immunity and resistance, he/she will not contract the cold or flu that may infect another child. Some infants seem to have a constant cold from soon after birth. This is a chronic catarrh problem, most often allergy related and should be addressed by a qualified Homeopath or other health care professional of your choice.
Fevers that accompany influenza are of most concern to parents with sick children and are often the first indication that a child is unwell. An increase in temperature is a sign that the body’s defence mechanisms are fighting an infection. It is accompanied by an increase in respiration, heightening oxygen intake, a faster heart rate, enabling the blood to be delivered to the organs more rapidly as well as perspiration, which is the body’s own natural attempt to cool itself down. An increased temperature is a natural defensive reaction of the body as white blood cells (the immune system) is more productive and efficient when core body temperature is elevated. This is why they often accompany childhood complaints and diseases, and by understanding that a fever is a symptom rather than an illness, it can be looked at as an ally rather than an enemy.
Some fevers have no apparent cause and disappear within 24 hours. When fevers rise above 38 degrees, there is cause for concern and complications can arise so professional help should be sort. A low-grade fever, those below 38 degrees, are less cause for concern but should be treated with caution if your child is less than 6 months or has other symptoms at the same time.
Keeping up fluids to prevent dehydration is the most important point to remember when your child has a fever or cold/flu. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, not only to prevent dehydration but to eliminate mucous This can be difficult as children usually lose interest in food and drink when unwell, but it is important to remember that an increase in temperature coincides with an increase in metabolic rate thus making dehydration more likely to occur. Breast-fed babies have the advantage of an endless supply of the correct immune boosting nutrients, so try to increase feeds where possible. Mother’s can take any of the supplements or teas recommended for boosting immunity, such as Echinacea, as they will offload the benefits of them to their babies via the breast milk.
Seek medical assistance immediately if:
- Your child is under 6 months and develops a fever.
- Your child is between 6 months and 3 years and develops a fever of 38 degrees or more.
- Your child is over 3 years of age, develops a fever of 38 degrees or more and does not respond to treatment (homeopathic, analgesic, herbal etc.) within 24 hours.
- Your child, regardless of their age, has a fever accompanied by pain, stiffness of the neck, sensitivity to light, difficulty breathing, headaches, lethargy and dehydration (characterised by sunken eyes or fontanelles, bright yellow urine, sheds fewer tears when crying).
- Your child refuses fluids when they have a fever due to the possibility of dehydration.
- Your family has a history of convulsions with fevers.
- Your child is extremely lethargic and has a lack of reaction.
- Your child has a thick nasal discharge that does not improve within a few days.
- Your child is gasping for breath, is breathing rapidly or their skin turns bluish.
Common Homeopathic Medicines for Colds and Flu
Cold and flu symptoms come on suddenly, especially after exposure to cold, dry winds. A person needing Aconite is restless, anxious, has hot, dry skin and a great thirst for large quantities of water. The nasal discharge is clear, watery and hot with frequent sneezing. The cough is dry and barking, with a feeling of suffocation or a sensation of tightness on the chest, all of which are better when lying down. Fever alternates with chills, which run up the body from the limbs to the chest to the head. The face may be red when lying down and pale when sitting up. Symptoms are worse around midnight and in stuffy rooms.
Symptoms appear gradually over several days. The tongue usually has a white coat. Emotionally children are extremely irritable, especially when disturbed – a “bear with a sore head”, who is resentful about being questioned or fussed over. Colds and flu start with sneezing, nasal discharge and tears, producing shooting and aching pains in the eyes and head. They are often accompanied by headache and sneezing. The nose feels stuffed up after watery discharge ceases and there is often swelling of the tip of the nose. They complain of a bitter taste in the mouth, which is accompanied by parched, dry mouth and lips. Colds quickly settle on the chest. The cough is dry, comes in fits, is irritating, racking, induces vomiting and disturbs sleep. There is little or no expectoration. Breathing is painful, short and rapid, with an inclination to sigh and breathe deeply.. Symptoms are worse for movement, even eating or drinking may make the cough worse because of the movement involved. They feel better for rest and benefit from firm pressure such as massage.
This is an excellent medicine for bronchial complaints. These children have bad effects from too much excitement or exertion. Tight clothing is intolerable to these children due to the difficulty they have breathing. They can be tearful, fearful and anxious especially after being disturbed from sleep. They have a constant, dry, barking, hollow cough which comes in fits. There is irritation and tickling in the throat and hoarseness of the voice. They wake from sleep with a suffocative feeling. The sputum is white and difficult to expectorate, thus the child swallows it. Symptoms are worse after sleep, for exercise; in the daytime, and better for warm food and beverages.
Advances in conventional medical treatment have failed to cure these cold and flu symptoms or prevent them from occurring. Children are given a wide variety of medicines such as antihistamines which stops the respiratory tract from secreting mucous, cough suppressants, which prevent the body from bringing up the mucous produced by the lungs by suppressing the cough reflex, analgesics to reduce fever and pain and decongestants which limit the amount of mucous produced by the lining of the nasal passages. These medicines suppress the symptoms but do not address the underlying cause. Natural therapists see the symptoms of colds, flu’s and fevers as a necessary part of the healing process. If for example the lungs are full of mucous, the coughing reflex is the body’s way of eliminating it so why suppress it?
It is best to have a wait and see approach with children’s colds as healthy babies and children usually throw off a cold in a day or 2 without intervention. There is no need for concern if your child has a runny nose but are otherwise happy, content and are feeding and sleeping well. If a cold or any complaint for that matter, interferes with your child’s temperament, energy, sleeping or appetite etc., that is the time to employ treatment methods or seek professional advice. If you visit a Homeopath, ask them for your child’s constitutional medicine as this usually nips many types of complaints in the bud, including colds and flu, before they progress further.