As a parent, you may find yourself caring for a sick child at home. Here is some advice on how to care for common problems at home.
Fever is one of the most common symptoms of illness in children. It is normal for temperatures to rise as high as 105 degrees even with minor illnesses. After giving a weight appropriate dose of fever reducer, a warm bath done properly can bring your child’s temperature down to a comfortable level. Fill a bathtub with warm water deep enough to cover your child’s legs. The temperature of the water should be warm enough that your child does not shiver. After placing your child in the tub, wrap a towel around the back and shoulders. Then, pour warm bath water over the towel. Keep doing this until your child’s fever begins to come down. This method works well because water is an excellent conductor of heat away from the body. By having a towel around your child, the skin does not get cold, so your child is much less likely to shiver. Do not add anything to the water such as rubbing alcohol or vinegar. They are not needed and alcohol fumes can be hazardous to a young child.
If your infant gets a stuffy nose, clearing it with saline solution works well. You may purchase saline for infants, but it is expensive. Alternatives include saline solution for contact lenses or homemade saline. To make it yourself, add 1 level teaspoon of table salt to 16 ounces of water and mix well. You may apply the saline to the nostrils with a dropper or use a cotton ball. After putting saline in the nose, wait a few minutes and suction. Block one nostril while suctioning the other. A very effective device for nasal suction is the Nose Frida, which is easy and quick to use to clear a congested nose.
If your child has an earache, heat often brings quick relief. If you have some uncooked rice you can make a heat pack by putting some in a sock and tying a knot in the open end. Microwave your heat pack for 1 minute and check the temperature. If needed, continue to heat 30 seconds at a time. Apply this to the painful ear to relieve the pain.
If you are concerned about dry or hard ear wax, vegetable oil is a safe solution. Put 3 drops of any vegetable oil in your child’s ears daily with a dropper or cotton ball. The oil will blend with the wax and gradually soften it. You may need to continue this for several weeks. After softening the wax with oil, you may remove the wax by using hydrogen peroxide in the ear. Have your child lie on one side and put the peroxide in the ear, keeping it facing up. The peroxide will bubble and loosen the wax. You may need to repeat this process for several days. Cotton swabs are not recommended because they just push the wax deeper into the ear canal and may cause injury to the ear.
If your child has cradle cap (seborrhea) vegetable oil is useful for that as well. About an hour before bath time, massage some oil into your baby’s scalp. During the bath, shampoo the scalp vigorously with a washcloth and a tear free shampoo.
Many children will get upset tummies and feel nauseated. Ginger has been shown to help ease nausea. Many larger groceries and Asian markets have candied ginger either in the bulk food section or in the spice aisle. Have your child chew a few small pieces of candied ginger to help ease nausea. Ginger is not recommended for children under 2 years old. Homemade cola syrup may also help a nauseated child. To make it, pour 8 ounces of regular cola into a glass and stir as much table sugar into to it that will dissolve. Give 1 teaspoon of this syrup every 5 to 10 minutes to help soothe a queasy stomach.
Teething is a natural process that usually begins at 7 to 12 months for most children. For most children, have a cool or cold teething ring works well. There are also child safe teething rings. A wet washcloth or spoon that has been chilled in the fridge is also helpful. Not recommended are teething tablets or gels. Some teething tablets have been found to have dangerous levels of belladonna alkaloids in them which may harm your child. Most of those products are nothing more than some type of sugar with miniscule amounts of other ingredients. I do not advise amber teething necklaces. Several children have died after being strangled by their necklace. There is no evidence that wearing amber around the neck provides any benefit and the danger of injury cannot be ignored.
Of course, your child’s pediatrician can be a reliable resource for advice on caring for common problems. Please feel free to call if you have questions about your child’s health.
Dr. Lauzon is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and has been practicing pediatrics for 32 years. He is a partner at Owensboro Pediatrics