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How to Manage Cold and Flu Symptoms at Home

Published on Nov. 28, 2022

Seeing your child feeling anything less than their best can be stressful for parents. During cold, flu and RSV season (typically October through early March), many parents worry about symptoms of respiratory viruses, like fevers and coughs. In some cases, if a child is having trouble breathing or has become dehydrated, a trip to the emergency room or hospitalization may be necessary. However, mild symptoms can be treated at home with supportive care. Because there are no specific medications to treat a viral infection (antibiotics are not effective because they treat bacterial infections, not viral infections), supportive treatments at home can help manage symptoms until your child feels better.

If you are concerned that your child is showing symptoms of a respiratory infection, call your primary care provider first. If your infant less than 2 months old has a fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or if your child is having difficulty breathing, is dehydrated, or seems excessively sleepy or sluggish, call 9-1-1 or bring your child to the nearest emergency room. Learn more about how to prepare for an emergency department visit >>


How to manage mild respiratory virus symptoms at home

For mild respiratory infection symptoms, try these tips to help your child feel more comfortable as they recover at home:

  • Call them out sick from school, daycare or other arrangements. Not only will this prevent the spread of germs to others, it will allow them time to rest at home, which will help them recover more quickly.
  • Get them into a bed or other comfortable and quiet place.
  • Make sure they stay hydrated. For children, water, juice, soups and sometimes Pedialyte or sports drinks are good options to replenish water and electrolytes lost from sickness. For babies, breastmilk or formula will help keep them hydrated as well as ensure they get the necessary nutrition they need to stay healthy.
  • Use over-the-counter fever and pain reducers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and follow the drug instructions on the package or the instructions given to you by your child’s primary care provider.
  • Focus on keeping your child’s nose clear. During illness, your child may have a runny or stuffy nose and thick mucus, which may make it harder for them to clear their own nose and may prevent them from wanting to eat or drink. Keep tissues at the ready and consider a bulb suction or other suctioning tool to help manage nasal secretions.
  • If your child has asthma or receives medications or breathing treatments for other reasons, ensure they stay on their treatment schedule and are well stocked with their medications.

If you are concerned that your child is showing symptoms of a respiratory infection, call your primary care provider first. If you feel your child is having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. Please understand that RSV, flu, COVID and other respiratory illnesses are currently causing an increase in emergency department wait times. If a visit to the emergency department is needed, learn more about how to prepare before you go. >>