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Tips for Treating a Sick Child

It seems there's always some sort of "bug" going around school. Among colds, flu, strep and other common illnesses, children are lucky to escape without coming down with something. But if they do get sick, what should a parent do? These tips will help parents and other caregivers see those children through the illness and get them back on the way to health.

Treating a Fever

Not every fever needs treatment. Fevers are part of how the body fights off infection. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), if one's child is eating and sleeping well, and has periods of playfulness, he or she probably doesn't need any treatment. But consult with the child's doctor to find out what's best in each case. The AAP offers these tips for taking care of a child with a fever:

* Keep the child's room and the home comfortably cool, and dress the child lightly.
* Encourage the child to drink extra fluid, such as water, diluted fruit juices or commercially prepared oral electrolyte solutions.
* If the fever is a symptom of a highly contagious disease such as chickenpox or the flu, keep the child away from other children, elderly people and people whose immune systems are compromised.

Treating Colds and Flu

While it's tempting to seek medicinal treatment for every ailment, there isn't any cure for the cold or flu, and antibiotics don't work on the viruses that cause colds and flu. According to The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), headaches, muscle aches, sore throats and some fevers can be treated with pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be sure you give the correct dose according to his or her age and weight.

* Cough and cold medicines aren't recommended for children, especially those younger than 2.
* Make sure the child rests and drinks plenty of fluids.
* A humidifier can help moisten the air in the child's bedroom and will help with nasal congestion.

Medicating Children

When a doctor does prescribe an antibiotic or antiviral medication, there are several important things to be aware of. The AAP recommends finishing all prescribed doses of an antibiotic, even if the child starts to feel better soon. The AAP also recommends:

* Stick with the schedule - Don't skip doses, and ask the doctor what to do if a dose isn't given on time.
* Give the right amount - Never give a child more medicine because one thinks it might work better or faster. It could do more harm than good.
* Don't try to disguise the medicine - If a child hates the taste of the medicine, or tries to spit it out, it might be tempting to try to hide it in milk or food. But this could affect how well the medicine works, so do not do this unless specifically directed by the child's doctor.

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