Dr. Victor Emanuel

Dr. Victor Emanuel MD

The truth is that I’m not really big on home remedies. I was trained to prescribe drugs, in whatever form. But you know what? I’m open minded. So my philosophy is, hey whatever works for you, go with it.

At this time, we’re in the flu season. And even if we weren’t, you know that once your child is in day care, pre-school, primary school or high school, the cold or the flu is always a possibility.


Now, as you know, you can’t cure your child’s cold or flu because we’re dealing with viruses – we can’t cure those. But you can treat symptoms. The get-well basics include plenty of rest and lots of fluids, as I always tell you even for adults. Give your child lots of water, milk, or formula to keep him/her hydrated. You may also give frozen fruit bars, ice pops, and flavored gelatin (Jell-O). And don’t forget about good old chicken soup. Some of you whom I’ve seen recently who’re reading this will remember that I mentioned this.


Rest helps you heal and decreases the intensity and duration of your child’s symptoms. So it might be a good idea to keep your child out of school and other events, especially if there’s a fever. Staying home also prevents the spread of germs. To entertain your child, provide magazines, books, play a favorite movie, or allow video games. He can return to school and usual activities once the fever passes and he feels like returning to a usual routine.


To soothe scratchy throats, think hot and cold. Milkshakes, cold drinks, and ice chips will numb his throat, while sipping warm broth or hot apple cider soothes it. If your child is 8 or older, he may feel better after gargling with warm salt water twice a day. Paracetamol, Tylenol or Ibuprofen can also ease a sore throat. Medicated sprays and lozenges usually don’t help much.


Baby snuffed up? Get rid of the mucus with a rubber suction bulb. Or put your mouth to his nose and suck it out. Yeah, my mom did that. Put three drops of warm water or saline in each nostril to soften the mucus, and wait a minute before suctioning it out. Raise the head of your child’s crib or bed 3 to 4 inches to make it easier for him/her to breathe. A cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can also help clear up congestion. A red nose from too much blowing can be relieved with a little petroleum jelly on the skin beneath the nose.


A fever, unless it gets really high, won’t hurt your child, but it can make him uncomfortable. For a fever, light clothing in a cool room provides comfort. A cool washcloth on the forehead or neck will help. He may not need medicine to bring his fever down, but a child 6 months or older can take Tylenol (Paracetamol) or Ibuprofen. Check with the doc before giving medicine to a child younger than 2, and always follow instructions carefully.


Whether or not to treat a child’s cough depends on his age and how much it’s bothering him. Some children with a cough may sleep well and be in good spirits.

A hacking cough that’s uncomfortable and disrupts sleep needs attention. For children between 3 months and 1 year, give warm, clear liquids like apple juice or lemonade. If your child is older than 1, honey can fend off nighttime coughing fits. Children 6 years or older can get cough drops or hard candies to suck on. Having your child breathe in the steam from a warm shower can help, as can putting a humidifier or vaporizer in his room.


Telling the difference between a cold and a flu can be difficult. Generally, your child will feel worse with the flu, and he may go from fine to lousy quickly. He may have chills, muscle aches, a headache, high fever, and be exhausted. Call doc if you think it’s the flu. Doc might want to give your child medicines.


Children with the flu may have upset stomachs, with vomiting and diarrhea. This means losing fluids, so have your child drink small amounts of an electrolyte solution (Pedialyte, Oral Rehydration Salts) or water and suck on ice pops. A child with diarrhea who isn’t dehydrated or vomiting can keep eating. Just give him smaller portions and more liquids. Electrolyte solutions work best. Ginger ale, juices, and sports drinks can make diarrhea worse.


Don’t worry about feeding a cold and starving a fever. Just make sure your child eats when he’s hungry. Soft foods that are easy to swallow appeal more to a child who isn’t feeling well. Try applesauce, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, yogurt, gelatin (Jell-O).


Home remedies are useful to treat colds and flu because most cold medicines are inappropriate for children under 4. You shouldn’t use them at all, even if it’s labeled as a children’s medicine. After age 4, you should get doc’s OK and read directions carefully. Never give a child medicine that’s made for adults, aspirin to treat cold symptoms or more than one medicine with the same ingredients.


Check doc if you’re worried or if your child’s symptoms are worsening. Watch for chest or stomach pain, shortness of breath, a headache, unusual fatigue, or face or throat pain that gets worse. Call doc if your child has a fever of 103° F or higher, or has had a fever of 101° F or higher for more than a day. If your child is having trouble swallowing, is coughing up a lot of mucus, or has swollen glands or an earache, get him checked out.

We’re still in the flu season. Take care of your child.