We are in the midst of flu season, and if you or your child has not had the flu vaccine, please do so. For the common cold there is no cure. Antibiotics may be used for fighting bacterial infections, but they have no effect on viruses. The best treatment is to make sure your child is comfortable, gets extra rest and drinks lots of fluids.

To relieve a stuffy nose, use saltwater (saline) nose drops. Use 1 to 2 drops or spray 1 to 2 sprays in each nostril. In infants, use a rubber suction bulb to suck out the extra saline. Remember to squeeze the bulb part first before inserting in the nostril and then gently release sucking out the saline and extra mucous. Old infants might fight the bulb, but the saline alone will help loosen the mucous.

Cool-mist humidifiers may help keep the nasal secretions more liquid. Set it close to the child, but beyond their reach. Be sure to clean and dry the humidifier each day to prevent bacterial or mold growth. Hot-water vaporizers are not recommended as they can cause burns.

To relieve a cough for children 1 and older, try honey. Honey is not safe for babies. For children ages 1-5, try a half of teaspoon before bed (then brush teeth). This dose can be given four times a day if needed. For children ages 6-11, try one teaspoon of honey, and for children 12 and older, give two teaspoons.

Over-the — counter cough and cold medications are not recommended for infants and children because of the risk of life-threatening side effects. Several studies have shown that cold and cough products don’t work in children 6 and younger and can have potentially serious side effects.

Prevention of course is the best therapy. Hand-washing is important. Washing your hands correctly is also important. First wet your hands with running water. Apply enough soap to cover the full surface of your hand. Rub your hands together to create lather including the back of your hand, between your fingers and underneath your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can time yourself by humming Happy Birthday twice. Rinse your hands and dry them well. Use a paper towel for the door as doorknobs can be full of germs.

If you are concerned about your child for any reason, call your health care provider. Most colds get better within a week and certainly not get worse.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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