By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
After a summer outdoors in the sun and surf, children have gone back to school. While the weather might still be warm, many parents may be worrying about the cold – the common cold, that is.
Back in the playground, playing with friends they haven’t seen all summer, our children seem to have a knack for picking up bugs at the start of the new school year. Pharmacists are often asked about the best ways to prevent a cold and how to treat it, once the inevitable occurs, so here are some of my thoughts.
During the summer holidays, many children enjoy staying up later than they would normally. It is important to ensure that children get enough sleep. The Sleep Foundation recommends that pre-schoolers should have between 10-13 hours of sleep and 6-13 year olds should get 9-11 hours. Uninterrupted, restorative sleep will ensure that your child’s immune system is working at its best.
We always recommend a healthy and well balanced meal, with plenty of vitamin C and zinc to prevent illness. However, for anyone concerned that their children might not be getting all the nutrients they need, vitamin supplements are an option. Many children dislike taking tablets, which is why chewable and gummy vitamins, such as Flintstones, Yummi Bears Rainbow Light Kids One are so popular. Some brands – Yummi Bears, Rainbow Light and Lil Critters for example – are also free of artificial sweeteners and colours and are gluten-free if those are concerns.
The beginning of the school year is a good time to revisit the topic of hygiene with your young ones. Going over the following steps is an easy way to help your child to reduce their chance of catching something – and to make sure they don’t pass anything on!
- Wash your hands regularly with soap, particularly before you eat or after you’ve blown your nose. Little bottles of hand sanitizer can help with this.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue – or even your elbow! – when sneezing or coughing.
- Don’t share food, utensils, glasses or straws with anyone else.
- Throw used tissues away immediately.
Dealing with a cold
Symptoms of a cold usually come on quickly over a day or two. Colds, as you will undoubtedly know, are extremely contagious. They are spread in water droplets that are expelled through breathing, coughing, sneezing or even laughing! That’s why it’s important to have a healthy supply of tissues and hand sanitizer available especially when hand washing is not possible.
The first thing to do, if your child has contracted a cold, is to keep them at home until they feel better. While we all want to keep sick days to a minimum, doing this will accelerate their recovery and will help to minimise the spread of the bug across the playground. The other parents will thank you, as will the teachers!
Rest, as with prevention, is extremely important when recovering from a cold. Additionally, your child should drink plenty of fluids: dehydration will exacerbate symptoms and slow down recovery.
In terms of medication: there is no cure for the cold, but there are medicines which will mask some of the symptoms. For sore throats, you may find throat lozenges such as Chloraseptic, Sucrets o
r Strepsils will provide some comfort for older children. Gargling with salt and warm water is also helpful. Headaches and sore muscles can be alleviated with ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen/paracetamol (Tylenol or Calpol).
There are specific cold medicines, such as PediaCare for colds, cough or flu, Children’s Robitussin and Dimetapp which will help with congestion and all round cold symptoms. However, caution should be exercised when using multiple products as many often contain acetaminophen (paracetamol) which makes it easy to accidentally double up. The majority of these over-the-counter cold medicines should not be taken by children under six years old. Please speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you’re unsure about what you should be taking.
When your children have the sniffles, it’s easy for them to feel down, but most people are back to good health within ten days. Just remember to take it easy, have lots of cuddles and they’ll soon be back on their feet.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.