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Runny noses. Sore throats. Stomachaches. All are ubiquitous in households with children, and in fact, more than three out of four U.S. kids miss at least one day of school a year because they’re sick, according to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.
But while many of the above are contagious, they usually resolve without much fanfare if they’re given proper treatment, says Laura Jana, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and associate research professor at Penn State Prevention Research Center.
Here, a look at four common kids’ health issues and how to treat them right.
The common cold is the most common illness for both kids and adults, causing U.S. children to miss about 22 million school days a year. And since youngsters under the age of 6 average six to eight colds per year (roughly one a month from September to April), that means a lot of time spent sneezing and snuffling.
Treatment tips: If a cold is affecting your kid’s health, symptoms should ease somewhat within two to three days (though some can linger for up to two weeks).
In the interim, you can relieve your child’s discomfort with acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic) or ibuprofen (Advil and generic). A teaspoon of honey may help curb a cough (but don’t give this to babies less than a year old; honey can cause infant botulism in very young children). Some rest and fluids—including chicken soup—can also soothe your sick kid.
Skip over-the-counter cough and cold medicines—research shows they aren’t very effective, and in children under age 6 can have potentially serious side effects, such as increased heart rate and breathing difficulties. Some children may also experience an allergic reaction to such products.
And though you might be tempted to ask your pediatrician for antibiotics, don’t. Antibiotics can be useful for bacterial infections, such as strep throat, but are ineffective against a virus.
Despite this, about 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed to both children and adults are unnecessary, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “If your child takes antibiotics and doesn’t need them, they can upset her stomach and breed future antibiotic resistance,” Jana explains. Antibiotics can also have significant side effects.
Up to 30 percent of kids who have a sore throat…