<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Top cold and flu myths -- and the facts on keeping your child healthy
By Chris Woolston


Myth 1: Over-the-counter cold and flu remedies work well for children
Myth 2: Antibiotics can kill the germs that cause colds and the flu
Myth 3: There's really no difference between the flu and a bad cold
Myth 4: It's a good idea to take your child to the doctor when he has a cold
Myth 5: There's no reason for kids to get flu shots
Myth 6: Dietary supplements such as vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea can ease children's cold symptoms.
Myth 7: Kids in daycare will catch more colds than other children
Myth 8: Breathing the same air as a sick person is the easiest way to catch a cold
Myth 9: You're more likely to catch a cold if you're cold or wet
Myth 10: Hugging and kissing are great ways to spread cold and flu germs
The BabyCenter Seven: How to stay healthy during cold and flu season

Your child will probably catch six to eight colds this year — maybe more if brothers and sisters are around sharing their germs. Throw in the occasional bout of the flu, and he or she could spend a lot of time sniffling, sneezing, and feeling miserable.

If you're feeling confused about how to treat colds and the flu — or aren't sure how to help your child avoid these nasty bugs — you're not alone. A recent survey of parenting books found a surprising amount of misinformation and contradictions on the topic of colds. Well-meaning friends and relatives often chime in with pieces of "wisdom" that really aren't so wise. And if you're looking for clarity, you won't find it in the jumble of cold and flu products at the local drugstore.
<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">
<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 1: Over-the-counter cold and flu remedies work well for children
When it comes to treating your child's cold or flu, don't expect to get a lot of help from the drugstore. The oldest remedies — plenty of rest and fluids — are still the best.

Grace Lee, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital in Boston who specializes in infectious diseases, says products that promise to relieve symptoms such as stuffiness, runny noses, and coughs don't seem to have much effect on young cold sufferers. She's backed up by studies in Pediatrics and other medical journals, and articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and Pediatric Annals. "Parents may want to give their children acetaminophen for a fever," Lee says. But when her 1-year-old daughter has a cold, she adds, "I don't give her anything."

If you do decide to give your child cold and flu medications, do it carefully: These products can cause drowsiness, upset stomach, sleeplessness, and other side effects. Follow the dosing instructions, and stop offering medicines that don't seem to be working. (Note: Most pediatricians recommend against over-the-counter cold medicines for babies under 6 months. And you should always check with your doctor before giving your baby or young toddler any medication.) Finally, never give aspirin to a child who has a cold or flu. The combination of aspirin and a viral illness can trigger <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">Reye's syndrome<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, a rare but dangerous disease.

Find out more about:


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Treating your baby's <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">cold<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> or <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">flu<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Treating your toddler's <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">cold<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> or <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">flu<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Treating your preschooler's <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">cold<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> or <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">flu<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Treating your older child's <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">cold<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> or <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">flu<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Over-the-counter cold medications and <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">babies<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">toddlers<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">preschoolers<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, or <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">older children<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Giving medicine safely and effectively to a <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">baby<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">toddler<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">preschooler<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, or <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">older child<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> <SPAN>Myth 2: Antibiotics can kill the germs that cause colds and the flu
This is one myth that just won't go away. American doctors write millions of antibiotic prescriptions for colds and flu every year, often under pressure from worried parents. But no antibiotic — from Amoxil to Zithromax — will help a cold or flu. These drugs do only one thing: kill bacteria. And colds and flu are caused by viruses, a class of germs that aren't anything like bacteria. Unless your child has a complication of a cold or flu that might involve bacteria — such as an <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">ear infection<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> or <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">sinusitis<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> — giving him antibiotics for a cold or flu is like using nose drops to treat a hangnail.

Not only are antibiotics useless against cold or flu, they can actually be harmful. Kids taking antibiotics can suffer from diarrhea, stomach cramps, and other side effects. And when antibiotics are overused, disease-causing bacteria can gradually build up a resistance to the drugs, making future bacterial infections harder to treat.

<A target="_top" name="2"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 3: There's really no difference between the flu and a bad cold
It can be hard to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, but it's helpful to be able to distinguish one from the other. For one thing, colds almost always go away without causing trouble, but the flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia. If you know your child has the flu, you can be especially alert for possible signs of trouble (see below).

Quickly spotting a case of flu also opens up new possibilities for treatment. If your child is 1 or older, he can receive antiviral drugs, which kill the virus that causes the flu and can speed recovery. But these drugs only work if taken in the first two days of the illness. (Most children with the flu recover just fine without these medicines — they're mostly used for kids with chronic illnesses, such as asthma. But if you want to give them a try, contact your doctor as soon as you suspect a case of the flu.)

Here are some pointers to help you tell a cold from a case of the flu. Colds usually come on slowly. The first sign is often a sore, scratchy throat, followed by a runny nose and sneezing. Colds don't usually cause significant fevers in adults, but infants and young children often reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Other common symptoms include cough, headache, and stuffiness.

Flu, in contrast, usually hits like a truck. The symptoms come on quickly and tend to be severe. Your child will feel very weak, tired, and achy, and his fever may soar to 103 or even 105 degrees. Other symptoms include a dry cough, runny nose, chills, sore throat, strong headache, and eye pain.

Find out more about how to tell the flu from a common cold in <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">babies<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">toddlers<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">preschoolers<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, and <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">older kids<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">.

Note: If you're having trouble identifying your child's illness, or are concerned about his symptoms, call your child's doctor. Sometimes it takes a lab test to tell a cold from the flu.

<A target="_top" name="3"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 4: It's a good idea to take your child to the doctor when he has a cold
According to a 2003 report in Pediatrics, Americans made 25 million doctor visits in 1998 for treatment of colds. Another 1.6 million went to the emergency room.

But the vast majority of these doctor visits were completely unnecessary. In most cases, the best thing you can do for a child with a cold is keep him at home. Trips to the doctor or the emergency room are usually unhelpful, not to mention expensive. There's nothing a doctor can do to reduce the length or severity of a cold.

A few kids with a cold do need medical help. Likewise, some kids with the flu develop complications that require immediate attention. (Note: If your child is younger than 3 months, you should call his doctor at the first <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">sign of illness<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">.) The American Academy of Family Physicians recently listed symptoms that separate serious illnesses from the run-of-the mill variety. Whether you think your child has a cold or flu, you should call your doctor if you notice any of these warning signs:


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•A lingering fever


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Any fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•A cold that lasts for more than ten days


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Breathing troubles, including wheezing or rapid breaths


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Bluish skin


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Not drinking enough liquids (see the signs of dehydration to watch for in <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">babies<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">toddlers<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">preschoolers<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">, and <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">older kids<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">)


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•An earache or discharge from the ear


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Seizures


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Extreme irritability


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Inability to wake up


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•Flu-like symptoms that come back after seeming to subside, especially when they include a fever and a worsening cough


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•A worsening of other conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes

<A target="_top" name="4"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 5: There's no reason for kids to get flu shots
If your child's 6 months or older, many doctors recommend that you have her vaccinated for the flu. It's best to get this taken care of in October or early November, so your child has time to develop immunity before flu season gets into full swing. (The flu vaccine hasn't been approved for babies younger than 6 months old, but you can protect your infant by making sure that her caregivers and siblings get vaccinated.) Not only can a vaccination help your child avoid a lot of misery, it can help protect the entire family and maybe even the entire community. Children — especially school-age kids — are the main carriers of flu germs. Researchers at Emory University recently concluded that the flu would virtually disappear if just 70 percent of school children were vaccinated every year.

Find out more about getting a flu shot for your:


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">baby (6 to 12 months old)



<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">toddler (12 to 24 months old)<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">preschooler<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">


<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">•<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">older child<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">

<A target="_top" name="5"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 6: Dietary supplements such as vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea can ease children's cold symptoms.
Zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea have all been heralded as natural immune-system boosters. Unfortunately, there's no good evidence that any of these products can actually ease the symptoms of a cold in adults or kids. But echinacea may still have some value in preventing kids' colds: A 2003 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that children who took 7.5 milliliters to 10 milliliters of an echinacea preparation when they had a cold were less likely to have more colds in the following months.

Although some children develop minor rashes after taking it, echinacea is generally considered safe in small amounts. (Zinc and vitamin C are also safe as long as you don't go too far over recommended daily allowances.) Still, you should talk to your child's doctor before giving your child this or any other herb. Keep in mind that nobody knows how echinacea might affect infants, and there's a good chance that the benefits aren't enough to outweigh the risks.

<A target="_top" name="6"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 7: Kids in daycare will catch more colds than other children
There's actually some truth behind the stereotype of the runny-nosed daycare kid. These children can be more prone to colds when they're younger, because they're exposed to more germs. However, daycare kids may be less likely to sniffle through grade school. A 2002 study published in the Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine found that kids who attended large daycares as preschoolers suffered fewer colds in later years, presumably because they had built up immunity to most common cold viruses.

<A target="_top" name="7"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 8: Breathing the same air as a sick person is the easiest way to catch a cold
Cold viruses can travel through the air — especially when a sick person coughs or sneezes — but it's not a very efficient way for them to find their next victim. They'd much rather hitch a ride on a person's hand. One of the best ways to catch a cold is to grab something that's coated with the virus, perhaps a telephone, a toy, or a friend's hand. (Common cold viruses can live for three hours on skin or other surfaces.) Germs that stick to your hand can easily enter your body if you happen to rub your eyes or nose, the favorite entryways for viruses.

<A target="_top" name="8"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 9: You're more likely to catch a cold if you're cold or wet
Despite your mom's warnings about bundling up and not going out with wet hair, it's not true that being cold can cause a cold. If a cold virus happens to land in your nose, it doesn't really matter whether you're wrapped in an electric blanket or standing in a bucket of ice water: You're probably going to get sick. This myth undoubtedly got its start when people noticed that colds are more common in fall, winter, and spring than in summer. This is probably because people tend to spend more time indoors (sharing their germs) when the weather turns cool. And it's certainly no coincidence that colds become more common when the school year starts and children come into close contact with large numbers of other kids.

<A target="_top" name="9"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>Myth 10: Hugging and kissing are great ways to spread cold and flu germs
Don't be afraid to give your sick child plenty of affection, and don't worry that a kiss or hug will spread your germs to him (or vice-versa). Cold and flu viruses like to enter the body through the nose or eyes, so a hug or a peck on the cheek isn't likely to be dangerous. Besides, sniffling kids need love too.

<A target="_top" name="10"></A><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif"><FONT color="#000099"><SPAN>The BabyCenter Seven: How to stay healthy during cold and flu season

<TABLE cellSpacing="0" cellPadding="5" border="1">


<TD class="bgWhite"><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">1. Have your family members wash their hands regularly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand gels. When everyone keeps their hands clean, viruses lose their favorite way to travel.

<TD><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">2. Get your children vaccinated against the flu (if they're 6 months or older). One or two shots or doses of <FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">nasal spray<FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4"> can help protect the entire family, because a vaccinated child will be less likely to bring home the flu bug making the rounds at school, daycare, or playgroups.

<TD class="bgWhite"><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">3. The eyes and nose are the two favorite entryways for cold and flu viruses, so encourage your children not to touch these places on their face during the height of the sniffling season.

<TD><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">4. If possible, your family should avoid close contact with people who have a cold or the flu. If your child's best friend is sniffling and sneezing, it isn't a good time for a sleepover.

<TD class="bgWhite"><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">5. It seems obvious, but kids often need a reminder to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough to avoid spreading germs. Ideally, they should use a tissue and immediately throw it away. If they cover up with their hands, they'll need to wash up promptly. Or, ask them to sneeze or cough into the crook of their arm.

<TD><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">6. Wash counters and other surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution, especially if someone in the house is already sick. And don't share cups and utensils without washing them with hot water and soap first. Cold viruses can live on a surface for as long as three hours.

<TD class="bgWhite"><FONT face="Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif" color="#000099" size="4">7. Encourage everyone in the house to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. You can't have a healthy immune system without a healthy body.