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- Sangeeta Karmakar

Sanjana's four-year-old son contracts a cold almost every month, which invariably gives way to a cough. Each visit to the doctor meant coughing up Rs. 200, and then more for the medication, which was putting a strain on her pocket. Sanjana has now started giving her son over the counter medicines which are easily available, and which can be put to use again. While Sanjana is trying to save money, are her actions justified?

Many doctors don't think twice before prescribing an antibiotic, yet we cannot fault them for only being prudent with the health of our child. Often, if parents are familiar with common childhood ailments, they can rely on home remedies and over-the-counter drugs with great results.


Remember that cold medications are not a cure. They only provide symptomatic relief. The cold will run its course. Avoid drugs. Instead, concentrate on building your child's immunity.


You could give him Vitamin C supplements, which he can have once or twice a day, even when he doesn't have a cold. Include Vitamin A and zinc in his diet. Reduce his exposure to those who have the flu.


When your child has a cold, give him child plenty of water and warm fluids to aid secretion. Inhaling steam increases mucous flow. Avoid giving your child dairy products and bananas as they increase mucus production. Use of nasal decongestants should be avoided. Saline-based nasal drops are preferable, but use sparingly.


If your child has a viral infection, you could give him a paracetamol to control the temperature. However, it is best to consult the doctor to make sure the fever has not resulted due to any other cause. If the fever includes shivering, headache, muscle ache and flu-like symptoms, it may be malaria. Disprin or Crocin must be given once in four or more hours, while Combiflam must be given once in eight or more hours. You could also try bringing down your child's fever by applying a cold compress, by dipping a cloth in ice cold water and applying it to his forehead. Give him coconut water, though NOT on an empty stomach as it produces gas, tea, soup and other liquids. See that the child is in a smoke-less environment. Always consult the doctor if the fever doesn't reduce after two-three days, or if it goes beyond 101 degrees.

Poor Appetite

Parents are often unable to monitor the dietary habits of their children. However most young kids go through intermittent phases of loss of appetite and over-eating, and this need not be cause for excess concern. A child loses appetite generally due to illness, the common cold and flu, or because he is worried about something. Tackling the root of the problem is always better than administering medication. You could increase your child's intake of Vitamin D naturally, by letting him play outdoors in the sun and by making sure he has his glasses of milk. You could also give him calcium and a multi-vitamin supplement.  

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