Canadian family physician Dr. Stephanie Lui is offering some advice to help families cope with cold and flu season.
Lui said her medical practice is fielding more calls and seeing more patients with cold symptoms, along with a few cases of other viruses like influenza.
Lui said certain symptoms warrant medical attention. She explained a baby under three months old with a fever should have a medical assessment.
"If your little one is not maintaining their fluid intake. They're not able to drink fluids. And they're urinating less than normal. That's another time to worry," she stressed. "Difficulty breathing. So that means if they're breathing really fast or they're looking like they're working really hard to breathe, that's another time to worry. If your little one is really sleepy, or difficult to rouse, that's another time to worry. And then a stiff neck or showing signs of confusion is another time that I get concerned."
She emphasized those symptoms also warrant a visit to the doctor or emergency room.
Dr. Lui noted there are a number of ways parents can make their sick child more comfortable as they fight off their illness.
"One of the things I recommend is to really try your best to keep your little one hydrated. And one trick that I like is actually diluted apple juice and what I do is I take half apple juice, half water and I mix it," she explained. "It's really important to dilute the apple juice because give too much sugar can dehydrate them some more. And the reason I like adding some apple juice for water is that apple juice contains the salts and the sugars that can actually help rehydrate and kids really like the taste of apple juice, too."
"Another thing is if your child is over one year of age, honey can be really great for a cough. There are actually medical studies that show that it can reduce cough frequency and severity," she continued. "For a sore throat, gargling salt water is also beneficial. For over the counter medications, I like Tylenol and Motrin. They're good at managing your muscle aches, throat pain, and fever that you can often get with a common cold or the flu."
Lui also pointed to a large study that found chicken soup has anti inflammatory properties which can also reduce some common cold symptoms.
Lui warned parents that the flu can often be more worrisome than a cold.
"So, in general, the common cold typically will get better within a few days and it doesn't cause any severe symptoms," she said. "With influenza, it can be very serious. So it can lead to complications such as hospital admissions and even pneumonia. So yes, the flu is much more serious than the common cold."
Lui is a Clinical Professor at the University of Alberta.