700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

The Winter Illness Toolbox Every Parent Needs

Feb 24, 2014

Even though we are three weeks away from the official start of Spring, right now those pesky winter childhood illnesses are very much around. A little advance preparation of an illness “toolbox” will help you to get through the onset of symptoms with a little less stress and a lot less tears from your little one.


Hand sanitizer and disinfectant soap. The FDA recommends waterless products containing 60 to 95% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol for greatest germicidal efficacy. Make it fun by finding your child’s favorite scents and colors. Keep it handy in your home, car and carrying bags. Sing fun songs during hand washing to promote washing for at least 20 seconds. Disinfectant wipes will reduce the amount of germs on surfaces and slow the spread of illness. The CDC recommends looking for products that are EPA approved for best disinfecting qualities. If one of these products is not readily available, a homemade solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach mixed in one quart of water is highly effective. Apply to surfaces with a cloth, let stand 3 to 5 minutes; rinse the surface with clean water. Avoid smoking around children. If you do smoke, go outside and always change all clothing afterwards and wash your hands to minimize smoke exposure.

Illness toolbox:

Nose care: Soft tissues, saline spray or mist, bulb suction/nose aspirator, petroleum jelly product (Vaseline), vaporizer (cool mist to avoid burns). Soft tissues will help minimize irritation and pain. If nasal drainage is difficult to remove, saline sprays can help loosen and remove mucous. If children are not the best at blowing their nose, bulb suction will come in handy to keep the nasal passages clear. Infants typically breathe through their nose. Stuffy noses can make breathing, sucking and eating more difficult. If skin becomes irritated or chapped, a thin, constant layer of petroleum jelly will help protect and heal. A small dab on the inside of the nose can help with irritation and potential bloody noses due to the irritated mucous membranes in the nose. A vaporizer in the house will help keep the airway passages moist and the mucous easier to pass.

Pain and fever care: Thermometer, Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), syringes or medicine spoons. A fever is any temperature over 100.4 generally. However, even if there is not a fever, it is still good practice to treat your child’s discomfort with illness. If you are planning a doctor visit, it is still okay to medicate your child. Utilize a dosing chart by weight or a doctor’s recommendation for proper dosing and time frames to re-administer the medications. Ibuprofen should be used only over the age of six months. Under 12 weeks, a doctor should give recommendations for any medication use. Never use aspirin products for children or for teenagers with flu symptoms, especially fever.

Promote comfort and hydration: Popsicles, throat lozenges/cough drops, cool drinks, honey (children over 24 months only). Soothing pain and irritation will help make the illness more tolerable. Popsicles and cool drinks will also promote staying well hydrated. A spoon of honey can help throat irritation and reduce cough.

Further care plan of action: Keep on hand your physician’s number and after hours instructions. In advance, find the closest appropriate urgent care or care facility along with their phone number and hours. Your pharmacy name, phone numbers and hours should be in your toolbox and available with you for care visits. Have a plan in place in case your child needs to be home. Children should be kept home until they have been fever free for 24 hours. Even if they don’t have a fever, they may need to rest and recover at home.

Enjoy your time home together! Take this time to read, watch a favorite movie, cuddle and spend quality time together.

Featured Expert

Brandi Cogdill, RN, BSN, CFRN, EMT-P
Emergency Services

Brandi Cogdill, RN, BSN, CFRN, EMT-P is currently the clinical leader at Dublin Urgent Care and will be transitioning to the Marysville Urgent Care. She is also a certified flight nurse and a paramedic.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.