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Surprising Answers to Questions About Children's Colds

Can large doses of Vitamin C prevent or cure the common cold?
Unfortunately, large doses of Vitamin C have not been proven to prevent or cure children's colds. In fact, large doses can even upset your child's stomach. But Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, does have many helpful functions in the body, including helping to heal wounds, enhancing iron absorption, and promoting resistance to infection. The bottom line? It can't hurt to give your child foods high in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, kiwis, and peas when they have a cold.

Can my child catch a cold from playing outside without a coat?
"Put on a coat or you'll catch a cold!" Sound familiar? Research shows that exposure to extreme cold can lead to pneumonia, but not to colds. So it's still important to put on those coats and make sure that your child is dressed warmly! Your mother was right about something else, too. Since people lose heat quickly through their heads, it's also a good idea to dry your child's hair before sending them out just to keep them warm. If your child is fighting off a cold or flu virus, he doesn't need to fight to keep warm, too.

Can chicken soup cure the common cold?
Believe it or not, the use of chicken soup as a treatment for the common cold is controversial. Some experts claim that it really does help fight colds by increasing the number of infection-fighting antibodies around the nose. Others insist that its only value comes from increased fluid intake and the soothing vapors of steam that rise up from it and clear blocked nasal passages. In either case, chicken soup is a good bet for children who like it.

Is it "starve a fever, feed a cold" or "feed a fever, starve a cold?"
Neither of these old adages is true. Fevers and colds both require good nutrition. Encourage frequent food and fluids, even if your sick child doesn't have an appetite for many foods. But don't force foods. Feed your children only as much as they want. When your child has a cold, encourage him to drink more than usual. Sneezing, coughing, and runny noses can even cause your child to lose a bit of extra fluid. Try weak tea with honey or hot cereal with warm milk. If a sore throat is making swallowing painful, try cold apple juice, flat ginger ale, popsicles, jello, yogurt and ice cream.

How much fluid is enough?
Even when she's not sick, your child should drink enough fluid. So what's "enough"? Basic daily fluid requirements for an 18 pound infant, for example, would be 27 ounces; for a 31 pound child it would be 39 ounces, and 58 ounces is enough for a 70 pound child. However, if your child is vomiting, or has diarrhea or a fever, you need to offer extra fluids to compensate for the fluids she's losing. Consult your doctor if you are concerned that your child may need more fluids or is in danger of becoming dehydrated.

Does my child need to stay home from school or day care when she has a cold?
You don't need to keep your child home from school or day care every time she sniffles. In fact, keeping your child home with a cold probably won't even decrease the spread of infection. Do keep your child home if she's not feeling well enough to participate in school or day care activities, if she has a fever or rash, is irritable or overly tired, is vomiting, or has diarrhea. Any time your child has these symptoms and is sick enough to stay home from school or day care, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor.

Why do children get more colds than adults?
There are more than 100 strains of the cold-causing rhinovirus (yes, "rhin" does mean nose), and each time children catch a cold, they develop an immunity to that strain. Children get an average of 8 to 10 colds in a year. By the time children reach kindergarten, they have built up their resistance, and the number of colds they suffer each year drops to 5 or 6.


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