TIPS: How to treat your child’s viruses at home

(Photo: WKRN)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – With schools across Tennessee closed due to illness, there are many parents caring for sick kids at home. In some cases, antibiotics don’t work, so it can be tough to decide how to provide the best care for a child.

Dr. Shannon Cohen with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says antibiotics fight bacteria, not viruses.

If your child has a cold, flu or other illness caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t help them feel better. They can actually make your child feel worse by causing stomach pain and diarrhea. Overusing antibiotics can also make them ineffective in the future.

Caring for cold and flu

When caring for a cold or flu, use nose drops or spray to relieved a stuffy nose. Saltwater drops or spray in each nostril can provide relief. For infants, use a rubber suction bulb to help clear out mucous.

A cool-mist humidifier in a child’s room can help keep nasal passages from drying out and becoming uncomfortable.

RELATED: Sickness closes schools across Tennessee

Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever. Ibuprofen is approved for children six months or older, but should not be given to children who are dehydrated or vomiting repeatedly. Give a baby three to six months old acetaminophen.

Give lots of liquids to prevent dehydration. Its okay if your child isn’t feeling well enough to eat a lot, but make sure he or she is taking in liquids.

Rest is best. Stay home from school and all activities when wick. Your body needs rest to get well.

Don’t give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under 6. Students show they are not effective in children that age and can cause potentially serious side effects.

Caring for stomach virus

Hand washing and keeping things clean are the best defenses against spreading the stomach bug to other members of the family. Medication is usually not needed. Your pediatrician may prescribe an anti-nausea medication if your child is vomiting for more than 24 hours or is becoming dehydrated.

Make sure to keep your child hydrated. The man risk for a vomiting child or one who has diarrhea is dehydration.

A small body can dehydrate much more quickly, so it’s important to keep your child drinking water. Sucking on ice chips can also help and your pediatrician may recommend a solution like Pedialyte.

Sports drinks may make diarrhea worse.

When to bring your child to the hospital

Take your child to the hospital if they are having trouble breathing; are listless; have signs of dehydration like not taking in liquids, poor urine output, no tears and dry mouth; fever that persists more than 24 hours; and fever with stiff neck or severe headache.