You have packed away the vaporizer after going nine rounds with your child’s cold (which the rest of the family caught, of course). Just when you are thinking about all the things you can do with your time besides wiping noses and making chicken soup, the phone rings. It is your 3-year-old’s preschool. Her temperature is 101 degrees and her head hurts. Sigh … here we go again.
Parents sometimes feel like their young children are constantly sick with one bug or another. Well, you can relax. While this parade of illnesses can wreak havoc on your routine, not to mention your job, it is normal for the toddler and preschool set.
Children younger than about 6 often have six to eight colds a year. Kids in childcare may be sick more frequently. Parents of children who do not start in childcare until age 2 or 3 may notice a startling jump in sick days once the child is in constant and close contact with other kids.
You can take heart in the news that by first or second grade — maybe even earlier — the colds and other viruses should start to taper off. By the time your child is grown, the “cold count” will drop to an average of one to four per year.
There are at least 200 different viruses that can cause colds or flu, but fortunately, the body does not catch the same virus twice. These viruses cause different symptoms that range from mild to severe. With a rhinovirus, for example, a child might have a runny nose, but not feel sick. With influenza, there might be fever, fatigue and achy muscles, but no head congestion whatsoever. Some viruses cause intestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.
As if that weren’t enough, kids sometimes get sick with a virus, and then develop secondary bacterial infections, such as ear infections or bronchitis. Antibiotics may be necessary for bacterial infections, but viral infections cannot be cured. They are self-limiting, though, meaning they will go away with time. You can use home and drugstore remedies to ease the symptoms and make your child more comfortable. Lots of rest and plenty of fluids are tried and true treatments for colds and flu.
Meantime, you can take some steps to reduce your child’s chances of catching colds and viruses. Children should learn to wash their hands frequently, especially after using the toilet. Make sure your child’s day care facility practices similar hand-washing hygiene for both kids and providers. It helps if they clean the facility — and the toys — on a daily basis. Try and choose a provider with a sick child policy that encourages parents to keep their kids home while the disease is contagious.