Health Update from Your Nurses
Drs. Gordon, Nussbaum, and Lappin

Viruses Я Us: The Common Cold
October 16, 2010

School is rolling along now.  Our children are back in classrooms, where sharing is welcomed and encouraged -- but must it also include germs?!  Yes. It seems inevitable . . . . or is it?


What's a parent to do?!!


First, a little resignation:  Most school-age children catch 4 or 5 colds a year, and pre-schoolers a few more than that.  The bright side is that these illnesses result in antibodies that will come to your child's defense in the future.  Nevertheless, must they catch everything they're around?!  Hopefully not!


Next, a little science:  Viruses, those pesky microscopic bits of RNA and DNA, are marvels of contagion. They fly through the air in droplets propelled by sneezes and coughs, and can survive on surfaces an awfully long time for something that is not even technically alive!  We inhale them or transfer them by touch, so they can happily reproduce and cause the symptoms we all recognize:  sore throat, stuffiness, runny nose, bleary eyes, coughing, even fever.


Short of isolating your child in a plastic bubble, there are some miracles of modern hygiene that work surprisingly well, such as soap and water handwashing (in a pinch, hand sanitizer.)  And don't share saliva--germs love that stuff!  No passing around the water bottle in the car.      


Help boost their immune systems with healthy eating, less sugar, lots of water, exercise, and enough sleep!


Herbal remedies can help, too. Any good brand at Montana Natural, The Co-op, or a health food store or homeopathic pharmacy will do. Follow the label's directions for dosing.


◊    Astragalus:  one dose three times a week will help support immunity during flu season (This herb seems to be valuable only before an illness and not during.).

◊    Echinacea and Goldenseal:  one dose every day in a liquid or chewable form.  One favorite is echinacea tea.

◊    Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids:  We recommend for children 500 mg of vitamin C per year of age divided into 3-4 doses each day during cold and flu time.  (A five year old would get 2500 mg and a 10 year old 5000 mg.  The maximum dose is 10,000 mg--Less if C gives you diarrhea.)

◊    Elderberry is a patented and proven viral treatment and helps support immunity.

◊    Probiotics: 5 to 10 billion CFUs each day to build immunity.


So, none of that worked and your child has a cold, you say?


Here are some things to expect:

The typical, garden-variety cold has extremely annoying symptoms, all of which areactually your body's attempts to engulf, devour, and eliminate the virus--seemingly untold gallons of mucous may pour out of your child to the point where you wonder where it's all coming from.


The usual course is 7-10 days with your child probably the most sick during the first 3-4 (they're also the most contagious then as well). And kids will often catch the next virus that comes along before the week's end and bring it home, too! So if you think your child has had a cold for three weeks, it very well may be a series of colds caught consecutively. Or, it could possibly be a cold veering into a bacterial infection (more about that below).


After the first several days of a clear, watery, runny nose, the mucous may appear thicker, darker and go technicolor yellow or green. That is often perceived by parents as bacterial infection, but it is usually just the drying-up phase and the cold should clear up soon after.




Call us when:

1)   that thick, colorful mucous, never stops pouring out day and night and your child is not improving.

2)   a fever comes on after the first three days of illness; it may indicate a secondary bacterial infection and mean you may need to come in to see the doctor. (Those beginning fevers that appear in the first few days of the cold are usually viral and should break for good and not reoccur during the illness). A fever that lingers beyond those first 2-3 days warrants a call as well.

3)   a little one who isn't yet verbal cries inconsolably, is lethargic, refuses to take fluids, or is rubbing and pulling his or her ears.

4)   an older child complains of ear or chest pain, is not smiling or playful, or is not taking in fluids.

5)   there is any effort to move air in or out of lungs, difficulty breathing, tight airways, or wheezing (this is different from the normal bubbly sounds of loose mucous moving around, but it can be difficult to assess at home).

6) whenever some reassurance will make all the difference to you.


Here are some of our tried and true getting-through-a-cold tips:

·If it's available, your breastmilk squirted up the stuffy nose or into eyes (when discharge is present), is healing, moisturizing, and a terrific decongestant. Squirt enough to cause your baby to sputter--your baby may not be crazy about this, but it really does help!

·When breastmilk isn't available, saline solution squirted in the nose can help relieve stuffiness.

·Sleeping in a more vertical position (Babies can sleep in strollers or car seats--indoors, of course and with a watchful eye for the straps properly placed. Mattresses can be elevated with towels or pillows under them or you can elevate the head of the bed by placing books or bricks under the front legs--of the bed, not your child, please).

·Cool mist humidifiers (be sure they are cleaned well so you don't produce mold) and steamy bathrooms--our respiratory tracts love moisture!

·Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines can be helpful. If you have doubts about the correct dosage, please call us.

·Pulsatilla is a homeopathic we've found to be helpful with stuffy congested noses.


Why, why, why must you drink so much water?!:


Your body can only make mucous out of the water (and herb teas, soups, etc.) you consume. The goal is nice, thin, loose, movable mucous--the problem stuff is the sticky, tenacious, tacky stuff that won't budge. So, hydrate to the MAX!


There are about 200 viruses that circulate in the community and cause colds. Therefore, the odds are not in your favor that your child will manage to dodge them all. Building immunity while you're young is actually not such a bad thing. Lots of rest, hydration and TLC, and they'll be feeling like themselves in no time.




Your Nurses